Students in Canyons School District soon will be able to choose to pursue a Standard, Honors or Advanced diploma, as well as content-specific Endorsements, under a revised proposal approved by the Canyons Board of Education on Tuesday, Feb. 16. Canyons becomes Utah’s first school district to offer differentiated diplomas to students in efforts to ensure each child is ready for college and the workplace by the time they graduate high school.
“The overarching goal of Canyons School District is to prepare every student for the demands of college and the workplace,” Canyons Superintendent David Doty said. “We have proposed that the Board adopt a tiered diploma system to raise the bar and encourage students to work harder and meet research-based standards of college readiness. We also need to award high school diplomas that are clearly aligned with the expectations of colleges and employers and that certify student readiness to succeed in multiple pathways beyond high school.”
Canyons’ career- and college-ready diplomas have been endorsed by the Commissioner of Higher Education and the Utah Board of Regents, the Salt Lake Chamber, and the Utah Technology Council. The diploma options could be implemented as early as 2011, and are expected to be fine-tuned along the way. They are:
Standard Diploma: In place now, the Standard Diploma requires students to complete the State Office of Education’s required 18 core subject credits, plus 9 (with the opportunity for 13) elective credits.
Advanced Diploma: The Advanced Diploma will require 20 core credits — the State Office of Education’s required 18 core credits, plus two credits of world language. It also requires credits to be earned in more rigorous laboratory sciences, college-prep English and Algebra II.
Honors Diploma: To earn the Honors Diploma, students will have to complete the Advanced Diploma’s requirements, plus meet College Readiness Benchmark Scores on the ACT college-entrance exam, which are: 18 in English; 21 in Reading; 22 in Mathematics; and 24 in Science. All four Benchmark scores must be achieved in the same test administration. This diploma also would include a weighted GPA requirement (to be determined) as recommended by Canyons high school principals. The District also proposes a new budget item for an ACT test-preparation course and ACT administration for all Canyons students.
Endorsements: Students would have an opportunity to pursue endorsements to signify advanced knowledge in a specific subject area, regardless of whether the student chooses to pursue the Standard, Advanced or Honors diploma. An endorsement can be earned by guiding two credits with specific emphasis, such as Career and Technical Education, Arts, or other content areas to be determined.
The District had proposed a 22-credit “Apex” diploma, offering specialization in Arts, Career and Technical Education, or Regents Scholarship coursework. While endorsed by businesses and higher education leaders, the option was revised following public input and concerns that the diploma would unduly restrict student choice, inadvertently harm school visual or performing arts programs, and narrow elective options.
“We believe these modifications to the original proposal are appropriate for several reasons,” Dr. Doty said. “First, they ensure Canyons diplomas reflect a national, research-based standard for college- and career-readiness. Second, they encourage students to take rigorous coursework, especially during their senior year, while respecting their freedom to take electives. Third, and most importantly, the criteria for the honors diploma is proficiency-based and tied to preparedness standards recognized by most every college and university in the country, regardless of the institution’s admissions requirements.”
Listen, watch and read news stories about the advanced-diploma plan: