Board rethinks grad requirements

As Charlotte-Mecklenburg high school seniors prepare to graduate, the school board is struggling with whether graduation requirements need tinkering.

The board is considering reducing its 28-class requirement, changing the way classes are scheduled, or both. Some have expressed concern that the 28-class standard – eight units more than the state requires – contributes to the school system's dropout problem.

Last year Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools reported more than 2,500 dropouts, at a rate 23 percent higher than the state average.

Board chairman Joe White said he needs more input from CMS staff to decide whether changing the standards would help students. Vice chair Molly Griffin pressed for details on whether changing class requirements would mean changes in how classes are scheduled.

Ann Clark, an associate superintendent, presented the board with yellow and pink sheets outlining 26- and 24-unit scenarios. She said she'd ask the public for input on the options at upcoming community meetings.

That drew a sharp rebuke from board member Trent Merchant, who said he wanted bold new ideas and “blue sky” thinking. He suggested year-round high schools or early graduation options. He also recommended doing away with half-year classes and alternate A-day, B-day schedules.

“We need to think bigger than yellow or pink,” he said, crumpling his sheets and tossing them on the table. “It needs to be bigger. We need to throw this thing wide open.”

Superintendent Peter Gorman replied that the staff needs direction, and that giving the public options could help start the discussions during community meetings.

“(School board members) don't have one united thought,” Gorman said after the meeting. “They're still getting information, and that's where we're going with this.”