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Douglas new graduation requirements are different from that of state

by Merrie Leininger

The Douglas County’s School District competencies will always be growing and changing, say those involved in the organization of the documents.

They almost have to be, with the implementation of the state’s competencies looming and the constant changes and upgrades in national policies and curriculum.

Cris Etchegoyhen, coordinator of curriculum, competencies and projects, has been involved in working with both the state’s and the district’s writing teams since the beginning, putting the competencies on paper.

She said she believes the district is pretty much in line with the state, but the details are different.

The performance levels students have to meet, for instance, are broken into four levels, whereas the district only asks if the child meets or doesn’t meet the standard.

The state asks if the student meets, exceeds, approaches or is below the standard.

“It breaks out for a teacher exactly where a student is,” she said. “It’s just approaching it a little different.”

Also, the state is planning on setting standards for technology, health/physical education and art, but not requiring performance levels to be measured for those subjects.

The district requires students to meet performance levels in technology, but does not have competency standards for art and health/PE.

“If they have things not in our competencies, we’ll have to teach them, but we won’t have to test them, that will be the state’s responsibility,” Etchegoyhen said. “There are also things in our competencies they don’t have, such as personal finance. We have it because the community said it was important.”

The state’s Council to Establish Academic Standards has completed writing half its standards. The English/language arts, math and science standards have been approved by the council and the state Board of Education.

This year the council is focusing on social studies, health/PE and art.

n Community’s vision. Professional development instructor Brandon Swain is a member of the state’s council.

Swain said the council was established through Senate Bill 482 when the legislators got bogged down with the process.

Swain said the differences between the state’s and the district’s standards is that Douglas County residents were involved in developing the skills students would need to be successful in the business world.

“The competencies reflect our community’s vision of what kids should know and be able to do when they graduate,” Swain said. “Both documents are well-thought-out, but they approach things differently.”

Swain pointed out the state has no requirements for foreign language or employability.

The council had the subjects dictated to them by legislators who wrote SB 482.

However, he said, both documents are flexible.

“Both are living documents. Once they are put into place, changes can be made for the benefit of the students,” he said.

Douglas County Assistant Superintendent of Education Services Roy Casey said the district has hired an outside consultant to compare the two documents and determine what differences there are between them.

Casey said the district has done a comparison on its own, but felt “another set of eyes should look at them,” he said.

“We’ve done a comparison and we’re in line, but we thought it would be more valid that way to see if there are any holes,” Casey said.

Dave Leitner of Pacific Research Associates in Portland is doing the work. His company does a lot of work for the State Board of Education and is a consultant for school improvement under Education 2000. He said he should be done with the comparison by mid-February.

n Aurora. Some members of the district administration are keeping an eye on other districts which are working on their own competency-based systems of education.

Last month, Etchegoyhen and Casey visited the school district in Aurora, Colo., and because that district is about a year further into implementation, brought back ideas for Douglas County.

“They talked about solutions for kids and additional opportunities for kids,” Etchegoyhen said.

She said administrators there had a lot of solutions for working with students who had problems passing the competencies.

However, she said the district is waiting to see how many children need intervention before planning huge summer school or after-school classes.

“If you have one kid who is having trouble in math, you would only need one-on-one tutoring. If there are 20, you would need some kind of class, or summer school,” she said.

Casey said Aurora had a lot of professional development innovations he brought back from the trip.

Because they are further into implementation, they have a clearer picture of how to get things done, he said.

A group of school administrators from Aurora will be visiting Douglas the week of Feb. 12, however, to see if they can learn anything from Douglas.

n Parent meetings. More information will be available at parent meetings for parents of 9th graders.

The meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. Wed. Jan. 20 at the Carson Valley Middle School; 7 p.m. Wed. Jan. 27 at Whittell High School; and 7 p.m. Wed. Feb. 3 at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School.

For more information, call the district office at 782-5134.

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