Belen Schools scramble to offer classes

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The Belen High School Class of 2013 may have been 22 students smaller if Belen Schools administrators hadn’t caught a misunderstanding of high school graduation requirements.

As part of the career readiness state graduation requirement beginning this school year, students must take either an honors, advanced placement, distance learning or dual credit course.

Belen administrators thought this graduation requirement could be fulfilled through the web-based credit recovery program E2020 as a distance learning course, said Geneva Nixon, the district’s director of curriculum.

But when Nixon double checked with New Mexico Public Education Department representatives, they said it didn’t count.

A distance learning course is when a teacher and student are separated by time or space, but linked by technology for instruction, said Timothy N. Callicutt, from PED’s Strategic Initiatives and Constituent Services Division, in an email to Nixon.

With credit recovery, the curriculum is “pre-packaged” with text and testing materials while students progress at their own pace.

“Our guidance has been that those do not count as distance education, because they do not have an actual teacher, whether asynchronous or not; an interactive teacher is not involved,” Callicutt said.

Administrators were pulling their hair out to solve this problem, because they needed to do something fast or else they would have a handful of 2013 seniors missing a state graduation requirement “through no fault of their own,” Nixon said.

Administrators aimed to resolve the issue this semester, since waiting until January wouldn’t have allotted seniors enough time to complete a dual credit course before graduation.

“We had to get it done. We were not going to let anyone fall through the cracks,” said Royceann LaFayette, senior class counselor.

Belen administrators met with CNM’s school relations manager, Julie Fisher, to see if CNM could assist in providing a dual credit course even though their classes began Aug. 27.

“We found out about the requirement and E2020 after (CNM) had closed their registration. (CNM) actually opened it back up just for this class, just for us,” said BHS Principal Chris Hotchiss.

Within 10 days after this meeting, CNM whipped up a special section of a college course called Making Money Work, found a BHS and CNM instructor to collaborate in teaching the course and had seniors enrolled in the course.

The class is a financial literacy class, teaching students fiscal responsibility before they are in a position where they’ve acquired personal debt, Fisher said.

Making Money Work fulfills the graduation requirement as a dual credit course.

“We made it work when they came to us and told us that they needed this,” Fisher said.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.