Navigating the path to graduation at RHS

Pictured is English teacher Abbey Maus (foreground in black robe) with the 2013 Rockford High School graduating class.
Pictured is English teacher Abbey Maus (foreground in black robe) with the 2013 Rockford High School graduating class.

For some parents of ninth-graders, figuring out how their child is going to get from the first day of school in ninth grade to graduation day four years later seems to be a daunting task, with state standards, assessments and district course requirements to consider. For others with previous experience of children graduating from high school, it’s merely taking the time for a quick refresher.

In reality, many policies, procedures and standards are in place to help families navigate the path towards graduation. Like all school districts, Rockford Area Schools’ Board of Education has a graduation policy regarding what a student needs to complete before earning a diploma from Rockford High School. Among those graduation requirements are:

• A definite number of specific courses that a student must pass.

• A definite number of elective courses, chosen by the student, that must be passed.

• The fulfillment of any requirements imposed by the state of Minnesota.

Based on guidelines provided by state law, each district determines the certain courses that every student must pass before graduating from high school. Rockford Area Schools requires students to pass 37 courses in the areas of English (eight), mathematics (eight), science (eight), social studies (eight), health (one) and physical education (one), Senior Seminar (one) and the arts (two).

Mikayla Erickson, a current senior bound for Arizona State University, recently explained, “You’re basically put in all the classes you need, you just have to work at succeeding.”

Rockford High School staff prepares a course catalog each year to help students as they go through high school.

Additionally, students are required to complete another 19 to 25 courses of their choosing, based on the year they plan to graduate.

“The number of electives required of our students is different depending upon which year the student graduates,” Principal Ryan Jensen said. “The reason for that is the changes we have made both to the number of classes a student can possibly take in one year and the total amount of credits we want our graduates to have to be college- and career-ready.”

Students make elective choices for a variety of reasons.

Abby Botten, a senior who will be attending the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, said she chose electives she found interesting.

“Going through physical therapy and participating in sports got me interested in being a physical therapist,” she said.

Asked about the graduation requirement process, neither Botten nor Erickson indicated that they had thought much about it until their senior year. They agreed that the senior meeting held in the fall, along with individual meetings with the high school counselor, Laura Weisbrich, gave them the information they needed.

“If you don’t fail a class, you shouldn’t have to worry about it,” Botten advised.

In addition to local school district requirements, the state of Minnesota also has some requirements for graduation. Jensen noted there have been recent changes.

“Last spring the Minnesota Legislature adopted a law that allows students who don’t achieve proficiency on the current MCAs to be granted diplomas — provided they have taken an accepted standardized test like the SAT, ACT or ASVAB. Currently all of our juniors take the ASVAB, so our students will be covered,” he said.

So, while it may look daunting to a first-timer, the path to graduation is easily identifiable and well-traveled.