Changes coming for future VUSD graduates

Visalia Unified School District is looking to update graduation requirements to ensure students can get the jump on universities of their choice

VISALIA – Mathematics isn’t most people’s favorite or even preferred school subject, but taking an additional class could be the difference between a student getting accepted to a four-year university right out of high school, or going to community college.

Visalia Unified is getting a start on revising the current high school graduation requirements so it lines up with California University’s A-G requirements. This means students will be required to take three years of mathematics instead of operating under the current two-year system requirement. At Visalia Unified School District’s (VUSD) board of education meeting on Aug. 23, staff came to the board with the first draft of the revision. The second draft will be brought back to the board and voted on at the next meeting on Sept. 13.

The district is making this change so students enrolled with VUSD will meet the designated requirements for mathematics when applying to a four-year state university after graduation. Under the current 2-year requirement, students fresh out of high school would not be eligible to go straight to a four-year university. They would first need to enroll with a community college to complete enough credits to reach eligibility for enrollment at a four-year university.

Mark Thompson, assistant superintendent for educational services at Visalia Unified, said he believes changing the graduation requirements to A-G standards would benefit students and the district by setting better expectations for everyone.

“[Visalia Unified] is prioritizing this, we’re saying this is important, that we’re moving forward and that we want better outcomes for our students,” Thompson said.

The new requirement would have all VUSD students enroll in an additional third year of math in their junior year, or possibly even their senior year if needed, to ensure all students have their three years to meet California university subject requirements A-G. According to the University of California website, minimum requirements for A-G standards states that students must complete 15 year long high school courses with a letter grade of a C or better, with 11 of them being completed prior to the last year of school. Section “C” of the requirement calls for three years of college-preparatory mathematics, which includes topics covered in elementary and advanced algebra and a type of geometry. 

The new requirement would begin with the graduating class of 2027, which are students currently enrolled at the eighth grade level. However, Randy Villegas, district board member, encourages students currently enrolled with Visalia Unified to pursue a third year of mathematics, whether they decide to enroll with a community college or a university.

“Even if it’s not a requirement for them, we should be asking them and encouraging them to take that third year of math,” Villegas said.

For students not interested in transferring straight to a four-year university or pursuing a college career at all, the district is firm in the belief that this change will still benefit students long term. 

“Regardless of where [students] go after high school with an extra third year of math, they’re going to be better prepared,” Villegas said.

Students will be able to follow along with all three years of standard, integrated math, which covers a variety of mathematical subjects per class. Students also have the opportunity to pursue some trickier subjects like precalculus, advanced placement statistics or calculus. In addition to those more challenging classes, which some students might shy away from, Visalia Unified also offers other classes like personal finance or sports statistics that would fit the district’s requirements. 

According to Villegas, personal finance helps students better recognize the management of their funds when it comes to real world matters, like purchasing a home, managing a budget and understanding how to manage their taxes. Sports statistics teaches students to look at the percentages, ratios and overall mathematical probability when it comes to sports, according to Thompson.

“It benefits everybody to have a deeper knowledge of math,” Thompson said. “It’s going to empower our students to have better math skills, and also require [the district] to focus on our support and make sure that students are successful.”

The revision did not come without questions from board members regarding this change. The question of school credits carrying over from middle school to high school for students enrolled with a higher leveled math class was brought to attention. Board president Juan Guerrero asked staff if an eighth grader takes a more advanced math class for their grade level, like algebra, if that would be accepted as part of the upcoming three-year math requirements in high school.

Thompson said this is something staff needs to consider and look into as the revision process continues. He said that is something he can bring back to the board for recommendation in September.

School district Superintendent Kirk Shrum said when the final revision comes back in September, he strongly encourages the board to accept the recommendation to amend the policy.

“We owe it to our students, both current and those coming, that we say [to them] ‘when you walk across the stage of a Visalia Unified high school, it means something, and you have options ahead of you’,” Shrum said. “And we’re going to support you along the way to get there.”

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