Bethel Park School District weighs relaxing of credit requirements
The Bethel Park School District is considering whether relaxing its graduation requirements might free up more time for students to take electives, get tutoring or pursue jobs and internships.
The school board's curriculum committee will meet on Feb. 6 to discuss reducing the number of credits that high school students need to graduate. The number has been set at 27 credits since about 2007.
“We've had kids who book a class instead of their lunch period, kids who want to do an internship or work-experience program and couldn't, and we've had to do some creative scheduling for remediation for PSSA tests,” said Janet O'Rourke, director of secondary education.
She said vocational students also are having a hard time juggling their classes at Steel Center in Jefferson Hills with the rest of the graduation requirements.
Bethel Park students take at least 6 3⁄4 credits per year scheduled across a nine-period day, with some science lab sessions taking up two periods.
Each class is worth between 1⁄4 and 2 credits, with most worth 1 credit. The Vo-tech program at Steel Center is worth 4.5 credits.
The implementation of Keystone Exams — which test students' proficiency in different subject areas and require remediation if a student doesn't pass — is likely to add even more pressure, because the remediation process is stricter than under the current PSSA testing system, O'Rourke said.
She said that, if implemented, the credit reduction would be phased in starting when the current seventh- or eighth-grade students reach high school. Before that can happen, the curriculum committee, teachers and district officials will weigh what students' schedules would look like with different credit requirements.
Reducing the credit requirement could have the gradual effect of reducing the number of students in certain classes. If students no longer are required to take the additional credits in upper-level math and science courses, fewer may elect to take them, district spokeswoman Vicki Flotta said.
That could lead to gradual reduction in teachers' workloads, or even in the number of teachers at the high school, she said.
Bethel Park Federation of Teachers president Diann Smith said the teachers union opposes reducing the graduation requirements, and she criticized the school board's Jan. 22 approval of the course selection guide for 2013-14 because it doubled the credit value of phys ed classes from 1⁄4 credit per semester to 1⁄2 credit per semester.
O'Rourke said the change was made to the phys ed courses — the only courses in the district worth just 1⁄4 credit — to make their value consistent with other one-semester classes. Students still will require one credit of phys ed to graduate, so future students could meet that requirement faster, O'Rourke said.
It's hard to compare credit requirements to those in neighboring districts. In Upper St. Clair School District, most yearlong classes equal two credits, and students must have 45 credits to graduate.
In Mt. Lebanon, daily classes are worth 1 credit per semester; four-day classes are worth 0.8 credit, and three-day courses, 0.6 credit. The class of 2014 must have 42.8 credits to graduate.
Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Add Matthew Santoni to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.