Board adjusts Liberty High School graduation requirements

January 29, 2013

By Lillian O'Rorke

Students who start at Liberty High School next year will need to earn more credits to graduate.

The Issaquah School Board voted unanimously Jan. 23 to increase graduation requirements at the school from 28 credits to 29.5 credits, beginning with the class of 2017.

The plan is designed to better align Liberty with the other schools and take advantage of Liberty’s eight-period schedule, Issaquah School District Associate Superintendent Ron Thiele said.

Thiele, along with administrative staff members Emilie Hard and Michelle Trifunovic and Liberty Principal Josh Almy, studied the idea of making Liberty students earn more credits.

“Then it was looking at what would be the best place to add those credits,” Thiele said.

Based on the committee recommendation, the school board decided to increase the science requirement by one credit and social studies by a half-credit. It will leave it up to students how to fill those requirements. That means that students wouldn’t necessarily need to take a lab-based science class and could instead fulfill the requirement with a science elective, like sports medicine.

Almy, Thiele, Hard and Trifunovic all agreed that adding a credit in science would better prepare students for their post high school plans and that more social studies would help get them ready for the demands of the Common Core State Standards through reading, writing and research practices.

The new requirements will raise Liberty’s science standards to three credits for the class of 2017 and beyond, while Issaquah and Skyline high schools’ would remain at two.

Additionally, Liberty students will have to complete four credits of social studies to graduate while their peers at the other high schools only need three.

Liberty students have historically had more graduation requirements, such as needing 11 electives instead of the six at Issaquah and Skyline, because their eight-period schedule allows them to take more classes.

Under existing standards, Liberty students have to earn 28 out of 32 available credits in order to graduate. Skyline and Issaquah students have to earn 22 out of 24 available credits. That means, Thiele explained, Skyline and Issaquah students are required to take 92 percent of the credit hours that are offered to them, while Liberty students only have to worry about 88 percent. Increasing Liberty to 29.5 credits raises that percentage to Issaquah and Skyline’s level.

“Part of this came out as a result of the almost two-year-long study of the Liberty High School schedule,” Thiele said.

During that time, the 2011 schedule committee looked at the utilization rates of the current high school schedules and found most of Liberty’s students were not using the schedule they were fighting to keep.

While about 80 percent of students at Issaquah and Skyline were taking the full 24 credits, only 12 percent of Liberty students took their school’s full 32 credits.

“We are really forcing kids to maximize all their opportunities they have over the course of four years,” Almy said.

He added that the new requirements will allow the school to further expand its course catalogue and that he hopes it will also encourage more seniors to take an additional AP course.

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