Understanding the state's opt-out policy

Recently our school district was required by the State Department of Education to adopt an opt-out policy for our students. This policy is designed for parents and students to make an informed decision as whether or not they choose to follow the A-2 policy that students in grades 10 through 12 are currently under or the A-3 policy which requires students to pass courses that will allow them direct entry into a four-year university.
There has been some misunderstanding as to the reason our district would appear to be lowering our standards. The Itawamba County School District has in fact required more courses to be passed for a student to graduate than is required by the State Department of Education. The Mississippi Department of Education now requires our school district to have the opt-out policy.
Students who entered the ninth grade in 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08 have come under the MDE’s A-2 policy, which requires them to have an additional math course that is higher than Algebra 1. Most of these students complete geometry as their higher course and many will take much higher level math courses including Algebra II, trigonometry, calculus and even some AP courses. These students will have to pass 22 credits to graduate from an Itawamba County school. This is one credit higher than required by the MDE’s 21 credits.
This year’s ninth-graders and all classes to follow will fall under the A-3 graduation requirements. This policy requires students to pass two courses higher than Algebra 1, take an additional science course and also pass geography and economics. These students will need 24 credits to graduate and may enter a four-year university their freshman year. These students will also need a foreign language credit in their elective selection to choose the four-year university route.
The opt-out policy required by the MDE allows parents to decide whether or not their child will follow the A-2 or A-3 policy. Some of our students will complete the A-2 policy and continue their education at our local community college and then transfer to a four-year university. Most of our students will complete the A-3 requirements and still attend ICC and transfer to a university. There will be a few who will go directly to a four-year university.
Each school counselor and principal will be depended on to advise and instruct parents and students to the pros and cons of both policies. We want our students to have the best academic foundation possible for their future choices.

Alisha Wilson