Throughout Oklahoma, high school students are enrolling for the next school year. Being college- and career-ready upon graduation begins with selection and enrollment in the right high school courses. This process should be one of collaboration among students, school advisers and parents. Parents are important advocates for students' academic success; their involvement and expectations are key components.
Research indicates students with involved parents tend to have better grades and test scores, enroll in and are successful in more challenging coursework, have better attendance and social skills, and graduate and enroll in education after high school. Parental involvement in this process requires knowledge of high school graduation requirements.
Seniors in the class of 2012 are the first high school graduates who must meet all requirements of Oklahoma's Achieving Classroom Excellence Act (ACE) for a public high school diploma. The goal of ACE is to let admissions officers know that students who meet the coursework and assessment requirements of Oklahoma's public schools are prepared to meet the rigors of college and career.
Course requirements of ACE include:
• 4 units of English to include grammar, composition, literature, or any English course;
• 3 units of mathematics limited to algebra I, algebra II, geometry, trigonometry, math analysis, calculus, advance placement statistics, or any mathematics course with content and/or rigor above algebra I;
• 3 units of laboratory science limited to biology, chemistry, physics, or any laboratory science course with content and/or rigor equal to or above Biology;
• 3 units of history and citizenship skills including one unit of American history, one-half unit each of Oklahoma history and United States government, and one unit from the subjects of history, government, geography, economics, civics, or non-Western culture;
• 2 units of the same foreign or non-English language, or 2 of units computer technology, including computer programming, hardware, and business computer applications, such as word processing, databases, spreadsheets, and graphics, excluding keyboarding or typing courses;
• 1 additional unit selected from the courses listed above; and
• 1 unit of speech or fine arts, such as music, art, or drama.
Students must complete these 17 units plus additional coursework to earn the state's required minimum of 23 units for a high school diploma. In addition to these requirements, local school boards may specify additional courses and credits for their diplomas.
While ACE focuses on preparing Oklahoma graduates for college and career readiness, the diploma alone does not guarantee admission to college.
There is a myth that colleges look only at grades and ACT or SAT scores to decide whether to admit students. While college admissions committees like to see strong grade-point averages (GPAs), students who assume it is the only important element may be disappointed. In selecting future students, colleges like to see that students have prepared themselves for college-level coursework by enrolling in and successfully completing more difficult classes in which they may have earned a lower grade. For example, when parents and students worry that classes with increased rigor — such as an Advanced Placement course or the fourth year of math or science — could result in a lower grade, they may opt for a class that is less demanding. While only three units of math and science are required for ACE curriculum, students' willingness to take an extra year may make college work easier and indicate to admissions committees an ethic to work above and beyond the minimum. Colleges want to admit students who will be successful and graduate from their schools; a strong work ethic indicates potential for success.
Success in college begins long before a student enrolls in college for the first time. Students' choices and successful completion of more rigorous high school courses help prepare them to succeed in college. Keeping in mind graduation requirements, college requirements, and what college admissions personnel look for in college applications can help prepare students for academic success beyond high school.
Parent involvement in these important decisions increase the likelihood their students are prepared to graduate high school and enroll in and be successful in postsecondary education.
Gregg Garn is director of the K20 Center at the University of Oklahoma. This column is offered by the K20 Center Gear Up For Success program. For more information about the program, go to k20center.ou.edu. For more about college preparation, go to www.OKcollegestart.org or call 225-9239.