When Kearns and Skyline high school principals embarked on a project this school year to require that students earn citizenship credits as a condition for graduating, they made three predictions:
Attendance would rise; tardiness would decrease; and grade point averages would increase.Tuesday the principals reported to the Granite School Board that their predictions were right on target. Significant improvement in all three measures has become apparent as students have accepted the notion that their behavior matters, just as their academic accomplishments do.
However, Richard Haacke, Kearns; and David Richards, Skyline, cautioned the board that the day of real reckoning is coming. With graduation only weeks away, they said, it is likely some student or some parent is going to challenge the policy and insist that a diploma be awarded regardless of citizenship standing.
"We're coming down to crunch time," Richards said. "We're waiting to see if anything serious develops. We're assuming someone will try us, and we plead for your support."
Both he and Haacke said they are working with students whose citizenship problems may keep them from graduating, notifying their parents and trying to wipe out the bad marks to clear the way for the students to graduate.
Haacke reported that it took the first half of the year to convince students the citizenship requirement was serious, "but if you want a change in behavior, there has to be a consequence for poor behavior."
He said that in the first three terms of the year, grade point averages at the schools increased by .7 of a point. There have been fewer academic failures and incompletes, and the percentage of A, B and C grades has increased. Fewer of their seniors are receiving poor marks on grades or citizenship as graduation nears.
Students are required to earn a portion of citizenship credit for each class. Failure to do so triggers a disciplinary action that allows the student to make up credit by doing school or community service or attending a class on citizenship.
The principals said the success of the program in their schools convinced them that employers are right when they say that "will-do is as important as IQ." They said they are looking for ways to reward those students with outstanding citizenship records, as well as to provide incentive for those who are falling short.
Teachers at the two schools are enthusiastic about the program. Having students in class regularly and on time makes their jobs easier as well as increasing the students' ability to absorb required materials.
Haacke said the two pilot schools are preparing to help provide inservice for administrators and teachers in other district schools if the board chooses to expand the program. There is significant interest at the junior high school and middle school level as well.