State should recognize, encourage high achievers

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As juniors in high school, we are concerned about our future. Since we have started high school, we have taken on challenging classes in an effort to prepare ourselves for higher education. We all started taking high school level classes in middle school in preparation to take college classes that we are currently enrolled in as high school students.

Our high school requires more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses to graduate than what Idaho currently requires for graduation. We have spent hours preparing for and taking standardized tests including ISATS, Civics exam, Biology EOC (End of Course) Assessment and college entrance exams. In addition to all of our academic endeavors, we have all participated in community service activities and extracurriculars. Our class dreams big, and we are not afraid to put forth the extra effort to achieve those dreams.

We are concerned because Idaho policy makers have made decisions that will devalue our diplomas in the eyes of higher education institutes and future employers. We live in a competitive society, and our class wants to be ahead of the curve. Currently, in Idaho, all of the required assessments do not have any expectations of proficiency; the only expectation is that we participate.

There are 46 high school credits required by Idaho to graduate, and 17 of those credits are undesignated elective credits. The highest math course specifically required by the state is geometry. At our school, students meet that requirement by the end of ninth grade. We live in a world of technology, yet the majority of high schools in Idaho have no graduation requirement for basic technology competency.

As Bill Gates said, “Our current expectations for what our students should learn in school were set 50 years ago to meet the needs of an economy based on manufacturing and agriculture. We now have an economy based on knowledge and technology.” For some of us, the high school experience goes far beyond these state requirements.

If Idaho had the option of a “STEM diploma” for high school students who put in the extra effort to take more STEM-related courses than what is required by the state, it would give those students a competitive edge in regard to higher education and the job market.

We are simply asking policy makers to reimagine what the high school experience could be with higher expectations, and recognize those students who are willing to do the work to achieve them.

•••

This opinion piece was submitted by North Idaho STEM Charter Academy’s Class of 2018, Rathdrum.

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