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NK-Arnold alters graduation requirements

| Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008

State assessment test performance now will be built into the graduation requirements at Valley High School.

Starting with the class of 2010, students must score proficient or better on the reading and math Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests taken by all 11th-graders.

High School Principal Jon Banko said students will receive a total of one credit for proficiency -- one-half credit for each subject.

Juniors who score below the proficiency mark in either or both subjects will be required to take a remedial class their senior year to improve their understanding of the test matter, Banko said.

Students will have the opportunity to retake the test during the fall of their senior year.

If they score proficient the second time, they will receive the credits. The second test will not impact the 11th grade scores sent to the state Department of Education, which are used to measure the district's adequacy.

Students who don't pass the second test will remain in the remedial class throughout their senior year.

Passage of the class requirements at the end of the year will satisfy the PSSA graduation requirement, Banko said.

Banko has indicated the graduation requirement is intended to ensure students take the PSSA seriously during their junior years.

The school board unanimously approved the new requirement Wednesday.

Banko said there were other changes to the graduation requirements, such as reducing the math requirements from four credits to three; eliminating the half-credit freshmen seminar class because it was not productive; adding a half-credit technology requirement; and reformatting the health and physical education credits.

Banko said the overall number of credits required to graduate will remain the same.

Students to go to China

The board was treated to a presentation Monday on the upcoming student trip to China before they formally approved the excursion.

Superintendent George Batterson said 25 students and 18 adults will make the 10-day trip that begins with a 14-hour flight to Beijing on Dec. 5.

The trip is part of the cultural exchange program with Jilin City in northeastern China, a program Batterson began promoting shortly after his arrival in the district a year ago.

The travel group will include two Chinese teachers currently working at New Kensington-Arnold, teaching a high school Chinese language class as well as Chinese culture to elementary students. They will act as translators and cultural guides in their home country.

Students will spend several days in Beijing, visiting the 2008 Olympic facilities, palaces, Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall.

Then they will travel by train to Jilin City to visit the schools participating in the exchange program.

A short visit to Changchun, the capital city of Jilin Province, will follow before the group returns to Beijing and the flight home.

Batterson said the trip will cost about $58,000, the majority of which will be paid through a federal Title V grant designed for innovative programs.

Batterson said each student was required to raise $300 toward the cost.

Students will stay in hotels and host family homes. They will create Web logs during the trip and present their experiences to school and community groups after they return.

The exchange program may eventually include New Kensington-Arnold teachers spending time in China and local families hosting visiting Chinese students.

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