School Committee Supports New High School Graduation Requirements

The changes take effect starting with the Class of 2016.

Pascale Queval, MHS fine arts lead teacher. Credit: Terry Date
Pascale Queval, MHS fine arts lead teacher. Credit: Terry Date

Starting with the Class of 2016, students at Marblehead High will need to take four years of science and four years of math to graduate.

They will only be required to take one year of fine arts/performing arts.

These are some of the changes to the school's graduation requirements that were proposed by the superintendent and the high school principal.

The School Committee on Thursday voted unanimously for the new requirements.

First, though, about 12 students, parents and teachers spoke on behalf of the fine arts, saying the arts buoy self expression, problem solving, esteem and a sense of discovery.

High School Principal Layne Millington and Superintendent Maryann Perry said students will still be able to find and develop a passion for art  since there will be no reduction in the arts budget or its teachers. In fact, electives will increase and a studio arts honors class will be added.

Still, students, including Rachel Larson, argued for keeping in place the current two-year requirement for fine arts/performing arts, saying some students might not otherwise discover and develop a passion for art.

Another student said her introduction to fine arts as a freshman has inspired continued study ever since. And now her art classes are like a sanctuary.

Parents spoke about students whose discovery of art led to them studying art and music in college.

Pascale Queval, MHS fine arts lead teacher, said art is a lifeline for some students who might otherwise quit school. In art they find self worth and a means to express themselves, gaining gratification and confidence that they carry over to other classes.

The high school principal said he sees the changes as a way to increase the choices for students, among them, students bound for MIT or pre-med programs who are doubling up on science classes in high school.

The principal said that over the summer students came to the school seeking waivers for business and art requirements to open periods in their schedules for other classes.

A School Committee member and others said that increasing the graduation requirement from three to four years of study was a no brainer since it brings Marblehead in accord with state standards.

The MHS math lead teacher said admissions people at state schools are looking for four years of math study in high school.

School Committee members said the changes being proposed have been in the works for a few years and they were ready to try them out.

The graduation requirement changes also include the following:
  • adding a fourth semester of wellness
  • removing business/computer/technology requirement but not the program
  • increasing the credits for graduation from 110 to 120
  • adding new electives
  • changing most science electives from a full year to a semester format

Peter Lake, LAKE Real Estate January 24, 2014 at 02:09 PM
This past year, not a single Marblehead high school student was admitted to an Ivy college, a top women's college, Stanford or MIT. Foreign house buyers are flocking to the western suburbs because of the better ratings of their schools, an effect which is increasing property values there. The lack of a well-respected high school in town has repercussions far beyond a mediocre education for our students. It negatively affects the value of many houses in town.
Andrew Barnett January 25, 2014 at 11:16 AM
Marblehead Schools have decided to reduce the HS graduation requirement for "Fine Arts" from 2 years to 1 year. This decision is unusually regressive, especially for Marblehead.Cutting the arts has always been the easy answer to tight schedules and yet has always failed to produce any benefit to learning or to student achievement. The recent elimination of the position of the Fine Arts Director (and advocate), and now the cutting the graduation requirement from 2 years to 1 year sends a pretty clear and unsettling message. It's easy to predict the next step along this slippery road - the total elimination of any arts education requirement at the High School. Study after study shows that Fine Arts education enhances a person intellectually far beyond simply music appreciation or how to draw. Fine Arts education has an impact on how people think critically and creatively, and improves their intellectual abilities across all disciplines. While some people may choose careers in the arts, arts education is not about creating career paths in the arts. Arts education is about improving our students' creative and cognitive skills. Simply put - if you want better learning and higher achievement in science, math, history and English, you INCREASE arts education, not the other way around! Look deeper into the relationship between arts education and creative thinking, between arts education and general learning, and between arts education and success after high school. Marblehead wants our students learning and thinking successfully, not just 'testing' successfully. College admission departments understand this and look well beyond just test scores. Andy Barnett


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