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New graduation requirements for GHS with 3 weeks to go

May 26, 2017 GMT

GREENWICH — The Board of Education voted in new graduation requirements for the Greenwich High School Class of 2017 on Thursday, just over 3 weeks before diplomas will be handed out.

The changes update the policy to reflect a switch this year from the Smarter Balanced Assessment to the Connecticut School Day SAT as the standardized test for 11th graders. They also add many more alternative routes to graduation for students who cannot score high enough on the Connecticut School Day SAT to meet district standards.

According to the district the proposed changes will allow 61 students who do not current meet the graduation requirements to graduate, of the approximately 650 students in the Class of 2017.

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After eliminating a stipulation that would allow students to meet the requirements by completing a senior reading or math portfolio, the Board of Education approved the new requirements by a vote of 5-2, with Republican Lauren Rabin absent and Republican Peter Bernstein and Democrat Jennifer Dayton opposing.

“This is distasteful,” said Peter Sherr, school board chair. “I am very, very, very unhappy that this item is actually before us.”

In an email to the Greenwich Time, Chris Winters, headmaster of Greenwich High School, said in the process of updating the graduation policy to reflect the change to the SAT, administrators realized that for the past 10 years they had been allowing students to graduate using exceptions that were not permitted by board policy.

“Each year there are some students for whom demonstrating performance standards on a standardized assessment is problematic, due to language barriers, disabilities, or other extenuating circumstances,” he said. “In these cases the high school has historically (since 2005-2006 school year) provided a senior portfolio option by which students may demonstrate performance standards. This option applies to approximately ten percent of our students each year.”

While updating the policy, “we realized the portfolio discrepancy between the Policy and the (Course of Study Guide) and initiated the proposed revisions,” he said.

On Thursday, Sherr said the school board, district administration and Headmaster of Greenwich High School Chris Winters were “jumping off the bridge together” on this issue, but applauded them on working together to find a solution that did not penalize students for the mistakes of adults.

“I’m very disappointed in this development,” said BOE member Jennifer Dayton. “I hope it never happens again.”

emunson@greenwichtime.com; Twitter; @emiliemunson