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Lincoln County adds options for ’22 graduates — New endorsements will require grade, testing benchmarks

Lincoln County’s incoming ninth-graders are in for some serious academic changes.

The school district recently adopted a fresh set of graduation requirements and diploma options which will take effect with the Class of 2022. Superintendent Mickey Myers believes the new system will raise Lincoln County’s already-high scholastic standards and provide students with the skills necessary for long-term achievement.

“There are things that the state requires, but, to complete these diploma tracks, we’ve got to go above and beyond,” he said. “It is incumbent upon us to provide the courses our children need to be successful.”

Lincoln County currently requires its students to earn 24 credit units in order to qualify for a standard high school diploma. Those credits must include, among other things, four English classes, four science classes and four social studies courses.

In order to receive a traditional diploma in 2022, students will still be required to earn 24 credit units prior to graduation, but instead of taking four science courses, they will now be required to take three science courses and a college and career readiness course. Students will also have the option of adding endorsements to the traditional diploma.

District officials held a special meeting for the parents of county eighth-graders Tuesday night at the Bogue Chitto Attendance Center gymnasium. Myers and assistant superintendent Richelle Ratcliff explained the new graduation requirements to the crowd and answered a few ensuing questions.

“In our district, most of the requirements for a traditional diploma will remain the same,” she said.

Ratcliff stressed the change will have no effect on students already in high school, only current eighth-graders.

Incoming freshmen can choose between a career and technical endorsement, an academic endorsement or a distinguished academic endorsement. Each endorsement builds upon the 24 credit units required for a traditional diploma.

Parents will be responsible for choosing an endorsement for their child prior to their freshman year of high school. School counselors will oversee the selection process and answer any questions parents or students may have.

The career and technical endorsement requires a total of 26 credit units, including four CTE electives. This endorsement also requires an overall GPA of 2.5, silver level achievement on ACT WorkKeys and successful completion of one of the following: one CTE dual credit, a career pathway experience or a state board-approved national credential.

The academic endorsement requires a total of 26 credit units, including at least one foreign language course and an upper level mathematics course. This endorsement also requires an overall GPA of 2.5, the achievement of Mississippi IHL college preparatory curriculum requirements, the achievement of state college readiness benchmarks and the successful completion of one of the following: one AP course with a C or higher and completion of the appropriate AP exam; one diploma-IB course with a C or higher and the completion of the appropriate IB exams; and one academic dual credit course resulting in a grade of C or higher.

The distinguished academic endorsement is the most complex of the three endorsements, and it requires a total of 28 credit units, including two technology and computer science courses and at least one foreign language course.

This endorsement also requires an overall GPA of 3.0, the achievement of Mississippi IHL CPC recommended requirements, the achievement of national college readiness benchmarks on each subtest established by the ACT and the successful completion of one of the following: one AP course with a B or higher and the completion of the appropriate AP exam; one diploma Program-IB course with a B or higher and the completion of the appropriate IB exams; and one academic dual credit course and earn a B or higher in the course.

Kayla Mabile, the mother of a West Lincoln eighth-grader, approves of the new graduation requirements. She expects her daughter will pursue a distinguished academic endorsement.

“I look forward to meeting with the counselor,” she said.

Ratcliff said no diploma option is better than another, and every child is encouraged to follow the academic path that will best prepare them for their chosen career. Any child who fails to meet their chosen academic endorsement can still, with their parents’ permission, graduate with a traditional, endorsement-free diploma.

Troy Douglas is also in favor of the district’s new diploma options. He is the parent of a Loyd Star eighth-grader, and he plans to sign his son up for the distinguished academic endorsement.

“I think it’s a great idea. It will better prepare our kids for a college education and a career path,” he said.

Students will qualify for early graduation if they successfully complete an area of endorsement prior to their senior year.

Also starting with the Class of 2022, seniors will have to meet certain requirements in order to be eligible for early release. They must meet CCR benchmarks of 17 in English and 19 in math on the ACT sub-score, or earn a silver level on the ACT WorkKeys suite of assessments.

Students who do not meet the ACT benchmarks can also qualify for early release if they have a minimum GPA of 2.5 and have passed or met the assessment option requirements for all four end-of-course assessments, are on track to meet their diploma requirements and are currently enrolled in the appropriate Essentials for College and Career Readiness Class.