School boards group to monitor new University of Wyoming standards

2011-11-22T13:25:00Z 2011-11-22T16:26:08Z School boards group to monitor new University of Wyoming standardsThe Associated Press The Associated Press
November 22, 2011 1:25 pm  • 

CHEYENNE — The Wyoming School Boards Association will monitor how school districts handle tougher University of Wyoming admission standards that administrators of one small district say will result in fewer class choices for some students.

"The devil is always in the details so I think we're just going to sit back and wait and see how they comply," said Mark Higdon, the association's executive director.

The new admission standards, approved last Friday by the UW Board of Trustees, are aimed at improving the retention and graduation rates of students who attend the state's only public four-year university. They take effect in fall 2013.

The admission standards put more emphasis on math, science and foreign language courses taken in high school. They apply to UW freshman applicants who qualify for "assured admission," or those the university must accept based on their high school academics.

However, all students who would be admitted under the current standards will continue to be admitted under the new standards because no changes were made to the university's minimum standards.

Higdon said he trusts that the UW trustees are doing what is in the best interest of the students and he believes parents of college-bound students will be among those closely watching how the new standards affect their children.

One small school district that voiced concern to UW trustees says some of its students will notice the change.

Rod Kessler, superintendent of Johnson County School District 1, said Tuesday that small schools whose budgets and schedules are more limited than bigger districts will find it more challenging to offer students elective courses that fit around the required courses.

Nineteen of the district's current 28 hours required for high school graduation will be taken to meet the UW standards.

"It causes us to rethink about how we deliver, what we deliver and what we can deliver," Kessler said.

Jeanie Barent, associate super in charge of the Johnson County district's curriculum, said students planning to attend UW likely will see their course choices reduced by the new standards.

"There's very little wiggle room in their schedule as to what they can take and they're just locked in," Barent said. "For example, kids won't be able to take two years of choir and two years of band throughout their tenure in high school with those requirements."

Nevertheless, Kessler said his district will make the new standards work.

"We'll do our very best and provide everything we can for our kids," he said.

UW trustees President Jim Neiman said he appreciates the scheduling complications that some schools face. But he said that has always been the case in many high schools.

Neiman noted that students can begin to meet the standards as early as sixth grade, giving them plenty of time and room for elective courses.

The new UW admission standards assure admission for all students who have a minimum four years of English, math and science; three years of social studies; two years of the same foreign language; a high school GPA of at least 3.0; and a score of at least 21 on the ACT college entrance exam.

The current standard is four years of English; three years of math, science and social studies; at least a 2.75 GPA for Wyoming residents; and 3.0 for out-of-state residents. Non-residents could also get in with a 2.75 GPA and an ACT score of at least 20. Other courses, such as fine and performing arts, were encouraged but not required.

The university offers a special program for students who don't meet the higher standards. The program teaches students such things as good study habits and how to deal with being away from home.

The university's minimum admission standards require a high school GPA of at least 2.25 and an ACT score of at least 20.

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