Providence will require parent sign-off on new high school graduation policy

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence parents will need to affirm they understand the city’s minimum standards for a high-school diploma may not fulfill college admission requirements under a new policy announced Thursday.

The school department’s decision to ask parents to sign off that they understand colleges may have additional requirements for entry comes after it announced plans to make minor changes to its high school graduation policy, according to spokesperson Laura Hart.

A revised diploma policy being considered by the Providence School Board would reduce the amount of credits students are required to earn during their high school career from 21 to 20, removing an existing foreign language requirement in favor of more elective courses. Superintendent Chris Maher said this week the goal of the changes is to give schools more flexibility.

While many of the state’s largest school districts do not force students to take a foreign language course in high school, the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and Bryant University each require incoming students to take two years of a world language before admission. Providence College requires three years of a foreign language.

Hart said students will still be encouraged to take foreign language classes in high school. She said guidance counselors have always informed incoming high school freshmen that some colleges have additional admissions requirements and individual high schools have communicated that information, but the city wants parents to be looped in as well. She said families will receive “printed communication” on the new graduation policy.

The proposed changes to the city’s graduation policy would align with the minimum standards set by the state, which includes demonstrating proficiency in English language arts, math, science, social studies, the arts and technology as well as successful completion of 20 courses and two performance assessments. The city is dropping its existing requirement for students to take two years of a foreign language in favor of an additional elective course.

The rest of Providence’s existing requirements – four years of ELA and math, three years of history and science, two years of physical education and half a year each in arts and technology – will remain in place, according to the proposed policy.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan