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DoD Schools Increase Graduation Requirements

By Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 19, 1998 – The Department of Defense Education Activity recently increased its high school graduation requirements and will apply them starting with the 1998-99 school year.

The class of 2002 will be the first to graduate under the new rules.

Changes include a two-credit increase to 24 and tougher academic standards -- more required courses and fewer credits left for electives. Generally, one full-year course equals one credit and a semester course equals one-half credit. Required courses will account for 19.5 of the total credits needed, and the remaining 4.5 comprise electives.

DoD increased math and science requirements by one credit each and doubled the half-credit computer technology requirement. The new graduation rules also call for students to have two credits in one foreign language and to spend 20 hours in a service-learning program.

In 1996, the education activity compared its high school graduation requirements with those of stateside civilian schools. Surveyors found a gap of up to six credits, said Jane A. Ware, DoDEA service-learning coordinator. Most stateside schools set the bar at 24 credits, but some demanded as many as 28.

Ware said some students ran into problems when they transferred to a stateside school that required more credits than their previous DoD school. Transferring seniors, for instance, sometimes needed more credits to graduate than they could complete in a year. She said that problem was a major reason for the change.

In choosing where to increase credits, DoD looked at what would benefit students most, Ware said. She said math and science were obvious choices and were increased from two credits each to three. Math courses must include at least two credits in algebra and geometry. All science courses taken must have a lab component.

The new requirements will help provide the math and science backgrounds students need for college. In the past, students might learn too late that they didn't have the right courses or a rigorous enough program to qualify for admission to the college they wanted. "These changes will ensure all students are prepared," Ware added.

Service learning -- community service tied to the curriculum -- was added to prepare students for higher learning, Ware said. She noted some colleges and universities use service learning as an admission criterion.

In service-learning programs, teachers provide the subject matter while students identify a community need and brainstorm a curriculum-based solution. Students will use a different subject each year -- social studies is their freshman-year subject.

Projects can be group or individual in nature, and students can do as many as they want -- but at least 20 hours' worth. Teachers and students initiate the projects, but students drive them, Ware said.

She said research indicates service learning positively impacts students' academic growth, self-esteem and attendance records. "It challenges students to develop a sense of community and of what it means to be a productive citizen," she said.

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