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Sparta High School to Toughen Graduation Requirements

Jennifer Dericks

Monday, May 12, 2014 • 11:54pm

SPARTA, NJ - There will be an increased credit requirement for the incoming freshman class at Sparta High School beginning with the 2014-2015 school year. 

After much discussion at the Board of Education work session in April, it was finally approved at the regular meeting. The credit requirement will increase from 120 to 130 credits. This change brings Sparta High School in line with other high-achieving school districts.

The state minimum requirement for high school graduation is 120 credits. "We do not typically like to do  only the minimum, for most things here in Sparta," said Superintendent Dennis Tobin in discussing the change.

In his presentation to the Board of Education members, Principal Daniel Johnson indicated this change could be made without the need to add additional staff.  He did caution, however, that staffing levels needed to be maintained at the current level. 

"Looking at how we compared to other schools within Sussex County, Sparta High School had the lowest credit requirement for graduating students. In comparison, both Kittatinny Regional High School and Sussex-Vocational Technical High School had the highest requirements in the county at 140 credits necessary for graduation," Johnson said.

In recent years, there was a student who graduated in only three years, having satisfied all of the credit requirements. She needed to only take the state required fourth year of English as a summer course.

Johnson added, "As we continue to examine our programs, as well as the rigor of those programs, it was determined that the move to increase credit requirements would increase the overall academic focus at Sparta High School.  Over the past years, many programs have been added that will assist students in investigating avenues of interest, better preparing them in determining majors upon entering college.  These program include, but are not limited to, Zoology, Medical Biology, AP statistics, Multi-Variable Calculus, and AP Music Theory.  With the increase in credit requirements, more students will take advantage of these opportunities, as opposed to attending a study hall throughout the course of the day, thus better preparing them for success as they enter college."

Students  can also  adjust their schedule to accommodate additional classes by attending the Summer Academy. There are math courses being offered to allow students to get credit towards graduation. This will allow students to advance in their studies.  It will also make room available in their schedules to take additional courses of interest, potentially honing in on a college major or career path. 

The Summer Academy classes will be taught at Sparta High School by Sparta staff members. Additional information is available on the main page of the district website. http://www.sparta.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=957050&pageId=18557189

With all of the changes that have come with the Common Core standards, initially adopted by 46 states, there is discussion in New Jersey that the high school graduation requirements may also change.

"The recent adoption of increased credit requirements will allow Sparta High School to be ready if and when such changes occur," said Johnson. 

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