Pittsburgh school board takes graduation requirements off the agenda for meeting

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Proposed changes in graduation requirements were removed from tonight's voting agenda of the board of Pittsburgh Public Schools.

School superintendent Linda Lane asked to have the item removed without comment.

In an interview, chief academic officer Jerri Lynn Lippert said more explanation was needed for the proposal to reduce high school physical education requirements. The proposal was announced earlier this month, and Ms. Lippert said the board did not have enough time to get adequate information.

She said the graduation requirements may be considered again in the fall.

The proposal called for the requirement for physical education to be reduced to one credit, which amounts to two full semesters or two or three periods a week for a year during a high school career. Currently, students must take at least two credits of physical education. The change would have taken effect with the class of 2015.

If the change had taken effect, it would have resulted in the loss of 1.5 teaching positions, according to district officials. Another five positions are expected to be lost due to more efficient scheduling.

While the graduation requirements are unchanged, the administration plans to go ahead with requiring all ninth-grade biology courses to run seven or eight periods a week instead of the standard five. This does not require board approval.

Other proposed changes in the graduation policy were prompted by new regulations that were approved by the state Board of Education and became official when they were published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin March 1.

After the class of 2016, the new state regulations eliminate the requirement for a culminating high school graduation project although districts still could require projects on their own.

Beginning with the Class of 2017, the state will require proficiency in certain end-of-course Keystone Exams or on a state-designed, project-based online assessment for high school graduation.

The city proposal, which was withdrawn, would have eliminated the graduation project as a graduation requirement, but it would have continued in some form in English classes, including portions that have students explore careers, practice writing college essays and put together resumes.

Pennsylvania is rolling out the Keystone Exams, which were given statewide for the first time in 2012-13. So far, three are available — literature, algebra 1 and biology — but others are planned if money to develop them is available.

While the state doesn’t require passing any Keystone Exams until the Class of 2017, Pittsburgh has planned to use them as local assessments in literature and algebra 1 for the classes of 2015 and 2016.

After that, the state requirements for proficiency on Keystones are:

• Classes of 2017 and 2018: literature, algebra 1 and biology.

• Class of 2019: English composition will be added, if it is developed.

• Class of 2020: civics and government will be added, if it is developed.

The state is developing online projects for students as an alternative for those who do not pass the Keystones.

The district ultimately will have to approve graduation standards that meet or exceed state regulations.

Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.

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