Students may test out of South Whidbey classes soon

Students in the South Whidbey School District may be able to test out of certain courses next year, provided they’re in class often enough.

The South Whidbey School Board reviewed competency/proficiency and excused/unexcused absence policies at its workshop recently.

Several parents questioned the school district’s programs and course rigidity during the “community conversation” on Feb. 29. One parent asked why her student couldn’t schedule classes necessary for college, as well as electives such as art or advanced metals.

The school board took its first step toward addressing those concerns when it briefly reviewed a policy that would give students a way to test out of a class. Difficulty arose around non-standardized classes such as the arts and physical education.

“We’re looking at which classes are worthy of being proficiency based,” said John Patton, the principal at South Whidbey High School. “We have band, art and others that are harder to measure.”

School district superintendent Jo Moccia informed the board of teachers’ concerns regarding job security. School district funds are heavily based on how many students are in the classrooms, and students who test out won’t be counted toward the district’s finances.

An attendance policy was also presented by board member Jill Engstrom at last week’s meeting. The school district is in the process of more clearly defining excused and unexcused absences.

Langley Middle School Principal Eric Nerison said there is a gray area he called excessive absences, which don’t quite qualify for the Becca Bill, Washington’s truancy law.

The workshop was the first reading, and no action was taken. The next meeting for the school board is scheduled for Wednesday, March 28.

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