College Board scraps plan to increase requirements

By The Associated Press

JACKSON — The state College Board has abandoned a plan to increase course requirements for Mississippi’s public universities.

The universities had planned to increase the number of required high school courses — mostly with advanced classes — from 15.5 to 19.5 for high school students graduating in 2012.

Education leaders believe that requiring courses like calculus and physics would better prepare students for college.

The Clarion-Ledger reported that the board adopted a new policy Thursday that listed the advanced courses as “recommended” rather than required. The required courses will remain the same as they are now.

Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds said some school districts “are too small to offer the courses.”

The board vote was unanimous, but several members expressed concerns over whether the system was abandoning higher expectations and “taking the pressure off” of high schools and students.

“I’m always hesitant to default to the minimum on anything,” board member Amy Whitten said.

Some offered other remedies, such as school consolidations or increased online offerings, to help students satisfy the requirements.

“I find it appalling that there are a lot of districts in this state that just don’t offer the choice (to take advanced courses),” board member Alan Perry said.

Al Rankins, the system’s assistant commissioner for academic and student affairs, said information from schools and parents showed the board’s higher standards would be unattainable for many across the state.

The higher standards, adopted by the board in 2005, would require entering freshmen to have taken an additional upper-level math class and advanced science course, as well as an additional history course and visual or performing arts class while in high school.

“Whatever the recommendations are, we will rise to the occasion,” said Mound Bayou Public Schools Superintendent William Crockett, but he said he has seen the problems first hand.

We always try to offer them,” Crockett said of the advanced courses.

The problem is that the small district in Bolivar County cannot fill up classrooms, he said. On average, Mound Bayou has fewer than 50 students in each grade.

College Board Vice President Robin Robinson said alternative methods of offering the classes, possibly via online, should be examined.

“Certainly, there’s a way we can look at getting young people what they need,” she said.

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