Concord considers bringing high school graduation requirement above the state minimum

  • Scenes from the Concord High School graduation at Memorial Field in Concord on Saturday, June 16, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

Monitor staff
Published: 9/26/2022 4:34:02 PM

Concord school board members and district administrators are considering raising the high school graduation requirement above 20 credits, which is the minimum allowed under New Hampshire state law.

In August, the Concord School Board tasked district administrators with researching and gathering data on the topic, with the goal of presenting information for further discussion this winter.

Concord High School principal Michael Reardon sent out a survey Friday to gather opinions from CHS and Rundlett Middle School parents. The survey asks them if they would be in favor of raising the minimum credit requirement, and how many credits they would support raising it to, on a scale from 21 to 28. It also asks parents whether they would support part of the additional credits being an out-of-classroom experience, such as an extended learning opportunity, college class or capstone project.

“This is not going to affect kids who are here now, but we want to get CHS parents’ input,” Reardon said Friday. “That’s why we included Rundlett parents, because if there’s  a change it would affect incoming classes.”

Concord High students accrue their credits by taking 0.5 or 1 credit courses in various required subject areas. Currently, they are required to have 4 credits of English under their belt to graduate, along with 3 credits of both math and science, 2.5 credits of social studies, 1.5 credits of physical education and one-half credit each of art, computer literacy and health. The remaining 4.5 credits can be electives of the students’ choosing.

While most Concord High students graduate with either 26 or 27 credits, Reardon said about 5% still graduate with only the required 20.

Many nearby high schools have higher credit requirements than Concord. Franklin High School currently requires a minimum of 21.5 credits to graduate, while John Stark Regional High School requires 22, Kearsarge requires 23 and Bow and Hopkinton high schools both require 24, according to their Program of Studies handbooks.

Part of the argument in favor of increasing the requirements in Concord is so students will get more education in certain core subject areas: science, math and social studies.

“Currently, science and math just require three credits and we feel pretty strongly that should be four,” Reardon said. “Like English, kids should be doing those key areas throughout their four years.”

Another argument is that requiring extra credits would help fill idle time for students who end up with free periods under Concord’s schedule of eight class periods divided between alternating Crimson and Tide days. While many students decide on their own to fill those periods with extra classes, some students do not, and instead end up with multiple study halls.

“I think some kids have too many study halls,” Reardon said. “I’m not suggesting that it’s a good idea for all kids to be in eight classes. But the balance is, if you have three study halls, that’s not good either.”

When the Concord School Board discussed the topic in August, school board member Kate West argued that multiple study halls could be important for some students, adding that she used her own study halls in high school to do schoolwork she couldn’t do after school due to work, extracurriculars and babysitting duties.

“In order to be in courses like honors biology, to handle that course load, I had to have study halls as well to do homework then, because I had shifts and things to go to,” West said. “Just thinking about the different, dynamic lives of the students.”

Administrators will also be gathering information on which Concord High courses are the most popular. There are some courses, such as art, which students can’t access due to high demand, leaving them with the option of enrolling in a different course or having a study hall. Reardon said that during course registration time, school administrators typically receive several hundred student requests to enroll in art courses that they have to deny because there aren’t enough classes and enough teachers to meet the demand. Reardon said he would like to bring another art teacher on board to help alleviate that problem.

As part of the information-gathering process, administrators will be sending out a survey to students, too.

“We’re doing our due diligence of gathering data from the community and from the kids,” Reardon said.

If the Concord School Board were to approve a change to the credit requirements, the new standards would be implemented incrementally, starting with the following year’s incoming freshman class, according to Reardon.

Concord administrators will present data on student credit requirements, parent survey results and their own recommendations to the School Board by December.

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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