FARMINGTON -- High school students in Davis School District may be able to graduate with fewer credits, given an option the district is in the early stages of researching to cut dropout rates.
The plan would entail an alternate diploma, allowing select students who are struggling, to graduate with only 24 credits, currently the mandated state requirement, rather than 27 credits, currently Davis district's requirement.
Though it may not seem like a huge difference, for some students staring down the line of a further widening gap to meet the requirements for graduation, it can make graduation a possibility. "A credit diploma just gets farther and farther from their grasp, and we feel like we could prevent them from dropping out if they have another option, a secondary diploma that aligns with the standards in the state of Utah," said Casey Layton, Davis district comprehensive counseling and guidance counselor.
Davis currently has one of the highest graduation rates of large districts in the state, said Davis Superintendent Bryan Bowles, but it would still like to improve the rates. "Even if one student drops out, it worries us."
By law, parents can request kids drop out of school at the age of 16. In the process of researching the alternative diploma, district officials talked with school counselors to see why students were dropping out of school or transferring to adult education. They discovered many of the students wanted to graduate, but the gap to get to the graduation point with all of the credits seemed too big to fill.
Students receiving the alternative diploma, which might be called a Davis School District Secondary Diploma, would miss the traditional graduation ceremony at their school, but it would carry the same weight as a high school diploma, allowing for more opportunities than a GED.
"This is a benefit to students, because when they don't finish, they feel defeated and it puts a roadblock in front of them," said Bowles.
To qualify for the alternative diploma, schools will identify seniors who are struggling early on in the school year. The school board is also reviewing the option of removing students' unsatisfactory citizenship grades that require service hours and payment to be deleted from their transcript. A traditional graduate must have zero "U's" to receive a diploma. The district begins tracking 'U's' in the ninth grade.
Board members expressed some concern over that option. "We can't have kids racking up "U's" just for fun," said board member Peter Cannon. "There has to be a price. We can't just write them off, or we set a precedent."
Though there are still many details to the plan the board plans on working through, board members were all in agreement that the district should continue pursuing the alternative diploma option for students.