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Tennessee jumps on board American Diploma Project

Christan M. Thomas • Jan 30, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Last week, the Tennessee Board of Education passed more rigorous curriculum standards, which will take effect with the class of 2013 — this year’s seventh-grade students.

“In 2006 and 2007 the governor had a series of conversations ... where business leaders and local community leaders, K-12 representatives, and post-secondary representatives got together and started conversations about ‘What does it mean to be college and work force ready?’” said Damon Cathey, Kingsport City Schools assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. “And (to) identify some of those skills that students need to be college and work force ready — things like being prompt and being dependable. They were not all hard skills like analytical or being creative. Some of them were very soft skills. As a result of those conversations, Tennessee joined the American Diploma Project that provides a blueprint for helping states get more rigorous standards in the classroom.”

Cathey and other KCS officials gave an overview of the American Diploma Project, the Tennessee Diploma Project and some of the new graduation requirements during the Tennessee Comprehensive Systemwide Planning Process meeting Wednesday.

Tennessee is among 31 states that are members of the American Diploma Project. The goals of the project are to align standards and assessments with skills and knowledge required after high school; require students to take challenging courses; build college and work-ready measures into accountability systems; and hold both high schools and post-secondary institutions accountable for student success.

The Tennessee Diploma Project, Cathey said, has set the goal of aligning curriculum so that students are able to meet high standards and to make tests and graduation requirements reflect college and work force readiness.

Changes in graduation requirements to meet these goals include transitioning away from Gateway tests to end-of-course exams; increasing credit requirements to 22; aligning curriculum with national standards; developing new assessments; and developing one diploma for all students.

Cathey said one of the biggest changes as far as high school course work will be in the math area. Students will now be required to take four years of math, including algebra I, algebra II, geometry and an upper-level math course.

“Algebra I will be the lowest math course that they (students) can take,” Cathey said. “So again, you see the elimination of that lower track — foundation courses — that we’ve had in the past.”

In science, all students will be required to take biology I, chemistry or physics, and an additional lab science.

Students will also be required to take a personal finance class for a half credit. That course will be part of the social studies component, Cathey said.

Next week, KCS will conduct a parent information session discussing how students in the system will be affected by the new math and science curriculum. The session will take place Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Ross N. Robinson Middle School, 1517 Jessee St., Kingsport. All parents are invited to attend.

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