Grad standards not in full force

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 3, 2002

As graduation standards come into force in Freeborn County with the class of 2002, they remain a touchy issue with many people, all across the education establishment.

In three area districts, the graduation standards known as the Profile of Learning &045; designed to make students demonstrate learning through hands-on projects rather than tests &045; will come into play gradually. Although all 24 content standards are in place at Albert Lea High School, this year’s graduating class only had to meet 14 of them, said Judy Knudtson, district curriculum director. The reason is because the class of 2002, and the class of 2003 as well, started high school with the tenth grade.

Glenville-Emmons had 17 in place this year, with the rest to follow in the next three years, according to Paul Moore, school counselor. Alden-Conger had the most standards in place for this year, with 21 required for the class of 2002. The other three are scheduled to be in place for next year’s seniors, said Rita Usselman, district administrator.

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At Albert Lea High School, the changes in curriculum because of the standards were pretty seamless, at least for students.

&uot;Our goal has been to make the whole process as unobtrusive as possible, so the students don’t even know they’re doing something to satisfy state standards,&uot; said Neal Skaar, ALHS English teacher. As far as Skaar is concerned, the district’s curriculum was already fulfilling the content standards. District teachers mainly had to identify how their courses fulfilled certain standards, he said.

The same held true at G-E, said Moore, where teachers ended up documenting the content more than initiating any changes in their curriculum.

According to Usselman, implementing the standards at Alden-Conger was both easy and difficult.

&uot;It initiated big changes that were experienced by both teachers and students, but being small has made some of that a little easier,&uot; she said.

Although all the graduating seniors at A-C met all the requirements, doing that required some Saturday school time, as teachers worked with students on specific issues.

In all three districts, the profile has increased the need for forms, both online and on paper. Teachers, administrators and other staff have all had to make time for documentation, say school officials.

And there are still plenty of skeptics who question the need for content standards.

&uot;The philosophy behind the whole process is a noble one, but a bit idealistic. The practical effect is to increase the amount of bookkeeping done by schools and teachers,&uot; Skaar said.