The Tennessee Department of Education has implemented the Tennessee Diploma Project (TDP), a broad overhaul of standards and curriculum designed to challenge students and better prepare them for college and the workforce.
Students, who began high school this fall, will begin a new path with increased graduation requirements, a focus on the skills needed for college and the workforce in an ever expanding global economy, and new assessments.
Gateway Exams in high school will be replaced by end-of-course exams that truly test the mastery of expectations leading to college- and work-readiness. The overall assessment system includes the ACT's College and Readiness Test, Explore (given in the 8th grade) and the PLAN College Readiness Test given in the 10th grade.
DCHS Principal Kathy Hendrix says the changes will initially affect DeKalb County ninth grade students. "The state has made several changes with the incoming Freshman Class. Various business and community leaders all over the state were asked by state leaders, what skills do graduates need? These are some of the things they mentioned: stronger math and science skills. Students need to be able to work critically toward a focused solution. They need to be able to apply their knowledge. They need to have stronger communication skills, both verbal and written. They need to be able to work in teams to solve real problems. They need to be able to think, apply, and use what they know and they need to have a strong work ethic. That means they need to be there regularly and they need to be there on time. So our tests and our graduation requirements had to be adjusted to meet these needs. So starting with this year's ninth grade students, there's going to be one diploma, one path. We won't have a dual or technical path anymore. Our tenth through twelfth grade students are still on the old policy. They still have the same requirements. They have to pass the Algebra, the Biology, and English X Gateway courses. They have to pass those tests. The state has also changed the standards to meet these needs that they have determined that we have and they have developed new assessments to go along with them. In the future, there's going to be ten End of Course Tests. Right now we have five End of Course Tests. That's Biology, Algebra I, English X, English IX, and U.S. History."
"Our Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) will still be determined by Algebra, Biology, and English X but the ninth grade students don't have to pass those tests. All five of those tests will count 20% of their final grade, just like they do now for the next two, and maybe three years. Thereafter, those End of Course Tests are going to count for 25% of their grade. So they're going to have to know the material in order to pass the class because they have to pass the class to graduate. All juniors right now have to take the ACT. They will be taking that in the spring. The scores they make on their ACT are going to determine some of the classes they will be placed in."
"Concerning some of the changes, right now, the sophomores through seniors are still under this old policy. They need three credits in Math but it's going to four. Starting with the ninth graders and everyone below, they'll need Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry and then they'll need a higher math. That's where that ACT score comes into effect. They're going to have three choices there. One of them is called a bridge course. Any student who makes below a 19 on their Math score on the ACT will be placed in the bridge course. For those who have a 19 or above on the Math part of the ACT, they'll have two choices. If they excel in math and they know they want to go into something Math related after they leave high school, we have the STEM courses for them, which is Advanced Math, Calculus, Pre-Calculus, those courses. We will also have a Finite Math Course for the middle group or those who are good in math but who are not wanting the advanced math courses, like Calculus and Pre-Calculus."
"This spring, they're supposed to pilot an Algebra II End of Course Test and then add the English III, Geometry, Chemistry, and a Physics End of Course, if the money allows. I know in the past we were supposed to add Algebra II and Geometry but we never did get that but right now they're saying that Algebra II is going to be piloted this spring."
"They have added a half credit of Physical Science, which can be counted if you're in marching band, for example. There's a few things that can count for that. They have also added a half a credit for Personal Finance, which we have already incorporated into our schedule. We've already got a lot of students who are taking that."
"All students are supposed to have two Foreign Language credits and a Fine Arts credit. That is the only thing that can be waived for students not going to a university. They have to use that to expand on their elective focus. Every student must have an elective focus. It could be in Math and Science, a career in technical, or education. There's a lot of different areas where they can have a focus."
Meanwhile, Hendrix says many students at DCHS are taking advantage of before and after school programs to catch up on work. "We're well into our second nine week session of school. During the fall break we had a week of intercession and over seventy students took advantage of this. They got caught up on things they were behind in. I was really proud of the number of students who turned out for that. We still have some students who are behind in some areas and they have some needs. They need to take advantage of the before and after school programs that we have available to them because the end of the semester will be here before we know it and we want everyone to pass the classes they are enrolled in. They need to stay caught up with their classes so they can graduate on time. Any parent can call the Guidance Office and sign up their son or daughter for help."