Dear BUSD Community,
I want to take a moment to touch bases with you regarding the new graduation requirements I talked about in my newsletter of last week. Since that email, we have received questions from some of you regarding the changes – how they affect elective course offerings, how students will be supported, whether it is the best way to improve the percentage of students who graduate college and career ready, etc. I also attended a meeting at Benicia High School on Monday evening with parents and students who shared their thoughts and concerns. I would like to clarify the intent of these changes, the approval process, and discuss next steps.
The rationale behind changing the graduation requirements centers on creating as many opportunities as possible for our students, which includes increasing the number of our students who graduate college ready. (College readiness is defined as the completion of the requirements for entry into the University of California or California State University System, also known as A-G.) We also know that completing the requirements for college readiness reflects greater preparedness for entry into the workforce should students choose not to go to college.
We fully understand, recognize and appreciate the fact that not all students will choose to attend a four-year college. Our rationale in changing the graduation requirements is rooted in the goal of preparing students, as fully as possible, for all choices such as four-year college, community college or career. Historically, less than 50% of our students graduate having completed the University of California and California State University entry requirements.
The District values and recognizes the importance of all elective offerings, including Visual and Performing Arts, Career and Technical Education (CTE), and electives in other content areas. We understand elective courses play a vital role in the overall educational experience for our students. Concerns have been shared by some members of the community that the District no longer values these courses, we are cutting them, or students will no longer have access to them. Please know, this was never our intention, but certainly a concern we need to clarify and further explore.
With all that said, it is clear to me we could have done a better job engaging the community around this important change. As your superintendent, I want to apologize for any undue angst or confusion this may have caused for some parents and students. While we did hold a Board study session to focus deeply on the topic in January, followed by a regular March Board meeting to further discuss and a third meeting in April to approve the new requirements, more public engagement is clearly needed, welcomed and valued. We want these changes to be a positive force in meeting the needs of our students and to ensure they have as many choices as possible when they leave us.
We realize it takes a while to make such adjustments work, and we are planning to begin implementing changes for the graduating class of 2022. This affords us the time to continue to engage the community in robust conversations about the best way to help our kids increase their college and career readiness. Educational systems are by nature dynamic, like so many things in life. They must adjust to changing times, new visions, new needs, new hopes, and dreams. These changes represent the beginning, not the end, of an earnest, collaborative pursuit of our vision of a Benicia graduate.
We recognize this is a busy time of year for families and we want to ensure we can reach as many families as possible. Therefore, I would like to invite you to an informational meeting on Tuesday, September 12th (time and location to follow), where we will discuss the requirements in greater detail, further explore our rationale, listen to and discuss your concerns, suggestions, and insights.
I am confident this community, who values its schools and programs so deeply, can join together in our efforts to ensure all students achieve at their highest potential in an engaging, inspiring and challenging learning environment.
Dr. Charles Young
BUSD Superintendent of Schools