2010-09-23 / News

N.K.H.S. makes progress on graduation requirements

By Eileen M. Daly

North Kingstown High School has made “significant” progress toward meeting the R.I. Dept. of Education mandates regarding proficiency-based graduation requirements. The news was announced during a presentation given by school administrators to the North Kingstown School Committee on Sept. 14.

Phil Thornton, North Kingstown superintendent of schools; Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Phil Auger; Principal Thomas Kenworthy and Assistant Principal Jennifer Roy presented an optimistic report on the noteworthy work that has been accomplished over the summer toward meeting the mandates.

“We are in the process of changing how we do business,” Thornton said, adding that “a great deal of work has been done.”

Each administrator outlined a portion of the work that has been accomplished and the changes that will now be in place at the high school for incoming freshmen.

Kenworthy began by reporting that a more rigorous passing grade will be required both to pass courses and to move on to subsequent courses. The pass grade will now be a grade of 70 – up from 60, he said.

Passing grades will also now be required for all anchor assignments, he said.

Regarding graduation portfolio guidelines, Kenworthy said that all anchor assignments ought to reflect the core learning of semester coursework. Students who are in their junior year in the spring of 2014 will be required to have 27 mandatory anchor assignments in their graduation portfolios, as opposed to the current requirement of 14 mandatory assignments.

Students who are in their junior year in the spring of 2013 will be required to have 15 mandatory assignments, reflecting the gradual increase in standards, Kenworthy said.

Roy spoke to the work that is taking place around standardizing proficiency across courses in the same subjects taught by different teachers.

“Teacher teams are meeting regularly to review common expectations, create common assessments and review results in order to get better,” Roy said. The goal is to have fair, unbiased assessments, she said.

“We want to measure the rigor we say we are assessing,” she said.

Roy also spoke to the issue of what happens when kids don’t succeed. Administrators are hoping to identify students who are struggling earlier in the process in order to intercede and provide remedial assistance to prevent failure, she said.

The high school’s academic resource center will play a central role in that process, with mandatory referrals, self-referrals, teacher referrals and individual education plan referrals utilized to identify and assist such students, she said.

Auger spoke about preventing failure in relation to the state NECAP test.

“The graduating class of 2012 must pass the state test in order to graduate,” he said. For students who do not pass, he said, there will be flexible scheduling in the spring of junior year in order to remediate students.

“Students must demonstrate proficiency through re-taking the test or through other assessments,” he said. “Students must make a clear case for proficiency. In other words, students must be able to demonstrate that they have learned what they are required to learn.”

A new website – currently under construction and accessed through the teaching and learning section of the NKSD website – will provide parents, teachers and students with pertinent information regarding requirements, Auger said.

“Grade span expectations and how they relate to state requirements, as well as models of student work, will be available on the website,” he said.

School committee members were quite positive in their overall responses to the presentation.

Committee member Lynda Avanzato asked if administrators believe they have made enough progress to avert the previous threat of not being able to administer Regents-approved diplomas in 2012.

“Yes, we are feeling good about that,” Auger said. “We have been in touch with them and so far, our communications have been positive.”

Jamestown School Committee Chair Cathy Kaiser expressed hopeful optimism toward the recent developments.

“Clearly, we were concerned last year when North Kingstown was found to be ‘not in compliance’ with RIDE’s diploma system regulations, thus jeopardizing the high school’s ability to issue diplomas in 2012,” she said. “We are encouraged by the district’s swift and focused response, and by the comprehensive measures they have put in place, particularly with regard to the state-mandated proficiencybased graduation requirements. The district anticipates being in full compliance before the next RIDE review and, more importantly, the systems they have put in place ensure that all students have the opportunity, support and responsibility to meet the high expectations associated with the awarding of a high school diploma.”

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