The Southerner

MPS considers changing graduation requirements

Oscar Cozza, Graphics Editor

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“As an art student, I’d like to stay in orchestra for 4 years, as well as be taking a language for 4 years,” said Emma Sweetland, a sophomore. “But I have to sacrifice one of those at some point because I need a semester of gym and health. Just doing that freshman year has already set me behind, [for example], the peers in my Spanish class right now are mostly freshman.”

Many South students face similar predicaments in meeting the graduation requirements for health and physical education. In recent years, the district has introduced online gym as a method of making it easier for students to meet these requirements, but for many students it comes at the cost of the quality of the class.

The district is currently considering changing the graduation requirements regarding gym and other classes to more closely align with the state requirements. The proposition is to lower the requirements for Physical Education, Health, and Social Studies by half a credit. These propositions will be voted on by the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education in January.

Originally, the proposition also included increasing the requirements for languages and ethnic studies, but these were dropped during the district board of education meeting on December 9th.

“I suggested they focus on promoting language options on the elementary level. That will also carry through with people taking took stuff in high school. I took two years of high school french and it has done nothing for me because that’s all I took and I forgot it all,“ said Robert Panning-Miller, a South social studies teacher who spoke during the board meeting.

Regarding the social studies requirements, Panning-Miller explained, “My concern is that with social studies, especially given the current state of affairs in the country, people [should have] a strong background in critically analyzing social issues and being able to not only think through them and work through them but hopefully be moved to civic activism. They should not cut the social studies studies requirements, people need that civic and social framework.”

Right now, Minneapolis Public Schools requires more classes for graduation than the state does.

Members of the MPS Board of Education also hope that by freeing up these required credits students will be able to more easily pursue classes in other subjects.

“The primary advantage is to align our requirements with those of the state,” said Jenny Arneson, Vice Chair of the Minneapolis Board of Education.

“Another advantage is that freeing up a full credit allows students to have more flexibility in their schedule. We know that many students are interested in pursuing classes in the fine arts, advanced placement courses or in some schools, IB diplomas that require certain classes; by freeing up required credits, students have more time in their schedule to pursue other options,” elaborated Arneson.

Under the current MPS graduation requirements, you must take two semesters of health and physical education – double the state requirement. According to a recent Star Tribune article, the gym requirement is a large barrier for some students to graduate, and may even significantly contribute to the achievement gap.

MPS has introduced a variety of other options to help reduce the difficulties gym creates in graduating. This would include a waiver program for students who participate in sports and online gym.

Some students think that gym should be abolished altogether. Kyle Schertler, a sophomore, said, “School tells us to value learning and an education and go to a college and gym doesn’t have anything to do with that. I think it shouldn’t be a requirement but I think the school should offer it because [physical education] good for students.”

In a survey taken of South students, only 26% think that gym requirements should remain the same. 38% think that the requirement should be changed to 1 semester, and an additional 37% think the requirement should be dropped altogether.

Panning-Miller holds different opinions regarding the physical education requirements. “The key is keeping kids active, but just being active doesn’t necessarily prepare you for a life of being active. … If  we want [students to be] lifelong learning we also want to promote lifelong physical fitness, and so P.E. classes and health classes are necessary in that regard.”

“The disadvantage is that this would lower the requirements for PE/Health and Social Studies.” said Arneson. “There is concern that not requiring these courses will mean that students will not leave high school with the knowledge they need in these subject areas.”

Whether or not the graduation requirements change, the coming decision on them in January will affect thousands of students and teachers throughout the district.

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About the Writer
Oscar Cozza, Graphics Editor

My name is Oscar, I'm a sophomore and the Southerner's graphics editor. In my free time I like to play the guitar and buy snacks. I am also an ordained...

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MPS considers changing graduation requirements