New graduation requirements

The drive-through graduation ceremony held June 6 was a first for DeForest Area High School, as seniors picked up their diplomas in their vehicles. Next year, new graduation requirements will be implemented, with the class of 2024 being the first affected by the changes. Graduates will have to give a presentation that reflects their college, career and life readiness, with a financial literacy class as part of the requirements.

New graduation requirements are being implemented for students in the DeForest Area School District under the Redefining Ready and Academic Career Plan (ACP).

Approval of the change came in early June, and it mandates that high school students complete an ACP presentation, starting with the class of 2024. They will go in effect in the 2020-21 school year.

“The push to implement Redefining Ready and Academic & Career Plan (ACP) indicators into a presentation requirement has been in the works for a couple of years,” said the district’s College & Career Readiness Coordinator Christopher Smith. “This year we were able to meet with several different teams of staff to develop a plan that would allow us to be ready to implement for the 2020-2021 school year.”

The presentation will be completed by the end of a student’s senior year. It is intended to provide evidence of a student’s college, career and life readiness.

“As a district, it’s really important for us to ensure that our students are leaving DAHS college, career, and life ready,” said Smith. “This requirement will allow students to determine which path suits them best and gives them a framework to help get them where they need to be in order to achieve the goals they have set forth.”

Superintendent Eric Runez said that over the past three years the district has been studying the School Superintendents Association national research initiative on college, career and life readiness indicators.

That work identified specific researched-based metrics to assess student readiness beyond just standardized tests,” said Runez. “DASD utilized that research and the indicators as the basis for our ACP planning and specifically the graduation requirements. The hope is students will be able to better plan for their futures by creating a portfolio that reflects their academic and career experiences as evidence of their readiness.”

High school teachers, counselors and administrators have been involved in developing the plan, as they analyzed Redefining Readiness Indicators and ACP components from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. In addition, a high school student advisory group was consulted.

Smith identified a number of ways the presentation will help students.

First, it gives them an opportunity to share their successes and reflect on their growth while in school. Furthermore, it provides practical experience in honing presentation and interview skills, as they will be asked to share their presentation with groups, including teachers, administrators, employers and community members. Through such experiences, they will receive instant feedback to help them in searching out post-high school opportunities.

Because the process is individualized, Smith believes it allows students to “take control of their future,” helping them identify their interests, strengths, weaknesses and areas for growth.

“This will be done through various experiences and opportunities throughout their four years,” said Smith. “The goal is that by the time students walk out of the door for the final time at DAHS, they will have an idea of their academic, career, and financial goals and what steps it’s going to take to get there.”

In addition, the presentation will allow students to establish relationships and build a network of people to help them work toward goals outlined in their ACPs.

Two other components of the new graduation requirements include a semester financial literacy course and a culminating activity at the end of students’ senior years. The financial plan is an important part of their ACPs, according to Smith, and will be included in their presentations.

Their presentation is the culminating activity after four years of high school,” said Smith. “So, they will be working on it throughout high school. The information will be compiled during their advisory period as well as in core classrooms. The students will reflect on their own experiences and use those to help build a presentation that demonstrates who they were, who they are now, and who they want to become in the future. The presentations will be shared during the final weeks of their senior year of high school to a panel of teachers, administrators, employers and community members.”

As part of the ACP initiative, many school districts around the state are adopting the presentation requirement for its graduates, according to Smith. A part of that is taking a financial literacy class during either their junior or senior years.

“Understanding components of financial literacy and creating a financial plan is a big component of a successful ACP. Therefore, students will use this required course to create a financial plan to help them better understand how their desired career path lines up with their ideal standard of living,” said Smith.

Runez said every school district in Wisconsin is required by law to provide academic and career planning services to students enrolled in grades 6-12. They also must adopt academic standards for financial literacy, said Runez, as well as the culminating activity for the ACP.

“We feel the new requirement will help ensure every student has the opportunity for success in these two areas,” said Runez.

Of course, these are strange times, with COVID-19. School officials don’t expect the pandemic to affect the new graduation requirements much, if at all. They say that whether it’s in-person or virtual, there will be a plan in place to ensure students get the necessary information and have a place to document their goals, their growth and all of their artifacts.

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