Committee prepares for graduation requirements

CONYERS - While most teachers and students have been working hard, focused on just making it to the Christmas holiday break, one particular group in the Rockdale school system has been busily looking toward the future - to the day when next year's freshman class members will walk down the aisle at their graduation ceremony.

Rockdale County Public Schools' Graduation Rule Committee had a busy year, preparing area high schools for changes to graduation requirements instituted by the state Department of Education.

The group - made up of high school administrators, content coordinators, counselors and teachers - was formed in October, when the changes were announced.

The committee has been reviewing the new 135-page rule and drafting RCPS graduation requirements in anticipation of the new rules going into effect for first-time ninth-graders for the 2008-09 school year.

The graduation committee will present a final report with recommendations to the Rockdale County Board of Education in January, so changes to the RCPS student and parent handbooks can be made in time for the upcoming school year.

After forming in October, the group formed four subcommittees to focus on four specific areas of interest: diploma, communication, guidance/counseling and math/science.

Craig Dowling, assistant superintendent for instruction for RCPS, said the group is expected to recommend to the board in January a 24-course unit requirement for RCPS students.

The state requires 23 units, but the proposed RCPS requirements include four units for social studies, rather than the state-required three units. Dowling said RCPS already requires geography to help with SAT questions.

"The committee recommends we continue with that," he said at the Rockdale BOE meeting Thursday. "They will recommend it to (the board) unless that changes between now and January, which I don't anticipate."

Under the proposed RCPS requirements, Magnet School students will be required to take four units of Magnet science, five electives and two units of Career, Technical and Agricultural Education courses, fine arts or foreign language.

Other RCPS students will take four units of science, four electives and three units of Career, Technical and Agricultural Education courses, fine arts or foreign language.

All RCPS students also will take four units of English/language arts and mathematics and one unit of physical education, which may be substituted with three units of "Comprehensive Health and P.E. Rules for JROTC" or other BOE-approved ROTC courses.

The counseling subcommittee recommended to the entire committee that RCPS also add community service hours as a graduation requirement.

"It is in line with our strategic plan and increases college scholarship opportunities," Dowling said, adding that students could complete the work during school hours or away from school.

He said the entire committee hasn't voted on accepting the recommendation from the subcommittee yet, so it may or may not make it into the board's final recommendation in January.

The committee also has discussed diploma options and seals.

"There's only one diploma under the new graduation rule," Dowling said.

However, he said committee members want students to be recognized for honors.

Since the new rule eliminates college preparatory and distinction diplomas, he said the committee is expected to recommend to the board an honor diploma seal for students who have a cumulative weighted grade point average of 3.5 or higher.

"The next step is to develop a communication plan to inform staff and community of the recommendations (and) collect feedback," Dowling said about the committee.

The Rockdale BOE is expected to hear the committee's final recommendation at a January meeting. The board meets again at 7 p.m. on Jan. 10 for a work session and at 7 p.m. Jan. 17 for a regular meeting. Both will be held at the RCPS Administrative Offices' board room, located at 954 Main St. in Conyers.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.