Let’s solidify requirements

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By Optic Editorial Board

Five years after state lawmakers passed legislation that mandates graduation standards for high school students, there’s still confusion about exactly what the new standards are.

Indeed, superintendents from around the state worry that the changes could prevent thousands of students from graduating, according to The Associated Press. The concerns have prompted the state Public Education Department to delay enforcement of the new rules, allowing school district’s to come up with their own graduation requirements for the current school year.

The state law seems straightforward. In order to graduate, students need 24-1/2 credits; they have to pass all of their core classes; and they need to demonstrate competency in key subjects, preferably by passing the state’s Standards Based Assessment.

The sticking point is in the alternative graduation requirements and in credits students get for such things as internships and community service.

While we think the Public Education Department made the right decision in allowing school districts to come up with their own graduation requirements this year, given the circumstances, it’s unfortunate that after five years of planning for the new graduation requirements, we still weren’t able to get this right.

The legislation appears to be geared toward ensuring that everyone who graduates from high school is walking away with a basic skill set, and that’s important. The law also appears to be aimed at making graduation requirements consistent throughout the state, which is a positive thing.

The state needs to spell out precisely what the new graduation requirements are, and it needs to effectively communicate those requirements to all school districts. School districts must then make sure that their students and the parents of those students understand what the requirements are so that there won’t be any surprises a few weeks before graduation day. To handle it any other way would be unfair to everyone.

Let’s get this done.

It’s worth noting that New Mexico consistently ranks at or near the bottom when it comes to educating its kids. That’s unacceptable.

We must move forward with school reforms like this one. A high school diploma should mean something, and implementing these new graduation standards will ensure that it does.