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Mount Si grade plan reinforces work ethic

SNOQUALMIE - Mount Si High School administrators will be making the need to work hard clear to incoming freshmen this year.

The district's board of directors approved a plan last month that will allow the high school to only let students advance to a subsequent grade if they pass their required classes.

Mount Si students need at least 22 credits to graduate. Presently, any student who completes one year at their grade level will move on to the next, but that will change starting with this year's freshmen class. Unless freshmen this year have completed at least five and one-half credits by the end of the year, those students will continue to be called freshmen, not sophomores. Likewise, those students will not be called juniors until they have earned at least 11 credits and won't be called seniors until they have completed at least 16 credits. Students can take up to six credits a year.

Last week principal Dave Humphrey began informing parents and students about the program. He addressed the students at an all-freshmen assembly on the morning of Sept. 28.

"I think I got their attention," Humphrey said.

Humphrey also will be spreading the word to parents through newsletters and meetings throughout the year.

While the plan has its supporters, it was not implemented without criticism. Concerns were raised about certain social aspects of the plan, such as the potential humiliation of being in the same grade two years in a row. Some grade indicators, such as where students sit during assemblies, would be impossible to enforce, and Humphrey said staff would not bust a student for being "caught" in an upper-class section.

Another indicator, however, will be enforced. Students who fail to get the needed credits to be placed in the next grade level will have their yearbook photo included with the class they have enough credits for at the end of the year.

"It's a good idea, but the one thing we were concerned about was the yearbook placement," said Lynee Petitjean, a parent on an advisory committee that meets regularly with Humphrey. "That would be very embarrassing."

Humphrey said the plan is really just an extra reminder to students about the importance of school. The school already warns students who are failing classes about the perils of not earning enough credits and encourages them to take summer courses to make up the failed classes. Also, the school sports program mandates that athletes pass all their classes in order to stay on their team; a stricter guideline than the state's, which mandates students pass at least four classes to participate in sports.

Kristy Sullivan, one of the district's directors, said she wants to make sure freshmen are aware of all the services available to them for the transition from middle school to high school and throughout their education at Mount Si.

"I come from a high-school counseling background, so I always ask what resources are available to the kids," she said.

Sullivan said the school needs to take into account what factors students are dealing with outside of the classroom that affect their behavior inside the classroom. Some students are in between homes, while others have to work to support their families, she said.

The program comes along with the added weight that this year's freshmen feel by being the first class required to pass all sections of their 10th-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) test. Humphrey said the program will be a good accompaniment to the WASL. After completing an informal study of WASL scores, Humphrey found those who fail two or more classes have a harder time getting proficient scores on the WASL. He said the new class naming program will remind students of the gravity of their decisions in the four crucial years of high school.

"This class will have a lot of things thrown at them," said Mount Si teacher and freshmen advisor Elaine Marie-Berg. "We think of it as positive reinforcement, though."

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