Some Utah high school students could be ready for graduation at the end of 11th grade, but for most it would not be feasible, a state study of the matter concludes.
The report, prepared by the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, was financed in part by a grant from the National Conference of State Legislatures.Wednesday, Krista A. West, a research consultant, summarized the findings of the study for the Legislature's Education Interim Committee. The Legislature requested the study to determine if 11th grade graduation as promoted in a piece of legislation passed in 1987 is really practical.
The education committee did not act on the recommendations of the report but will further study the issue during the interim. The 1987 legislation requires that the 11th grade graduation programs be initiated by 1989.
James Moss, state superintendent of public instruction, took strong exception to the report because, he said, his office was not asked to contribute during its preparation.
The report is "faulty and deficient," he said. He asked that legislators not heed the report's suggestion that graduation requirements be lowered. Such action would be "unwarranted legislative intrusion into state office prerogatives," he said.
Utah has graduation requirements that are among the most stringent in the country, and the office has spent several years trying to implement them and raise the level of preparedness of students leaving high school to go on for additional education or seek jobs.
"I hope you will give a thorough review to what is being done before acting," Moss said.
West said the most pertinent fact discovered in assessing student records and surveying students directly was that the 12th grade is not a wasted year for most students. Perceptions that too many students were "coasting" through their final year in high school was one impetus for the 1987 legislation.
She said the study indicated 12th graders enroll in "fruitful" classes and use their final year to better prepare themselves for further schooling.
More student counseling would be necessary to prepare students for early graduation, West said. That would be a challenge in a state where the -student-counselor ratio is 475 to 1, educators said.
The report included several recommendations for the Legislature:
Requesting or requiring the State Board of Education to modify graduation requirements to allow most students to graduate by the end of the 11th grade.
Requesting or requiring school districts to modify graduation requirements over and above the state requirements that impede the possibility of 11th grade graduation.
Encouraging the state board to develop outcome-based programs and other methods of allowing students to accelerate their graduation schedules. (Moss noted that the state has had such programs in place for more than 10 years).
Support and expansion of current programs such as concurrent enrollment of high school students in college courses, Advanced Placement and international baccalaureate degree programs that allow students to accumulate college credit while in high school.
Rep. William Bradford, R-Sandy, said the study supports the need to restructure education in Utah from the ground up. Reform has so far dealt only with peripheral issues, he said, and the Legislature must look at the whole picture to effect changes in the basic structure.