BOISE – High school students could have fewer elective choices by 2012 if the state Board of Education opts to require more math and science classes, a move it’s considering as the panel tries to boost the historically low number of Idaho graduates who go on to college.
A plan that’s already gotten preliminary approval from the board would require students in middle school to maintain a C average to be admitted to high school, and require high school students to take a college entrance examination by the 11th grade and enroll in more mathematics and science courses.
If the plan gets final approval – hearings are scheduled in Boise, Pocatello, Twin Falls, Coeur d’Alene and Lewiston in October – it could mean students will be forced to cut out fitness, music and other electives.
Fewer than half of Idaho high school students go on to college, compared to the national average of about 63 percent, and education officials want to add more rigorous courses so kids are better prepared.
Still, some fear students could be robbed of choices that add interest to their days or, in the case of foreign-language classes, are required by many universities.
“I think it is really bleak for all of the electives,” said Ted Totorica, choir director at Boise’s Borah High School.
Education board members say the additional math and science classes are important to produce more students who will succeed in college or the workplace. Idaho is one of about 35 states that are considering revamping curriculums, anticipating that tougher high school classes will create college students and future employees who will prosper.
If Idaho’s changes are approved, students would have to more carefully target their elective choices, though the choices wouldn’t be eliminated, said Sue Thilo, who was chairwoman of the education board committee that drafted the high school redesign plan.
“I still am not convinced students will have far less choice than they have today,” Thilo said.
Across the state, the changes could cost as much as $17 million, mostly to hire new math and science teachers.
Supporters of the redesign say that students who are taking two choir classes at the urging of music teachers, for instance, or a powerlifting course because a football coach presses them to pump up their biceps for the upcoming season, would be better served if they took another math or science class instead.
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