[Nov. 2016 News] State revises graduation requirements, administration pauses new courses


By Zach Horowitz ’19


For Staples students graduating in 2022, scheduling classes will be a lot different than in previous years due to changes in graduation requirements. The most notable change is the increased requirements for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

In the past, students had to take five credits in STEM, but the new graduation requirements will expect all students to take eight credits.

“The new state requirements would require students to take quite a bit more math and science and, in even some cases, humanities,” Staples Principal James D’Amico said.  

The most noticeable changes are the additional credit requirements in science and math. In science, the credits are increasing from two to three. In math, the credits are increasing from three to four. As a result of these changes the number of elective credits will decrease dramatically from six to around three and a half, even as low as one and a half.

The root cause for the increase in STEM requirements is the U.S.’s struggle to maintain competitive global STEM competency scores.

“First, students in the U.S. seem to be lagging behind those in other countries in terms of competency in STEM subjects, and this could risk making the country less competitive on a worldwide scale,” Gail Lavielle, State Representative and member of the Education Committee, said. “And second, there is a general impression that with the acceleration of developments in fields like computer science, biotechnology and engineering of all kinds, there are not enough students in Connecticut with sufficient background to prepare for careers in those fields.”

In reaction to these new requirements, D’Amico has, for now, paused the process for future class proposals.

D’Amico justifies his thinking by claiming that Staples should, “get really good at what we have and figure out where we have to go. What I would hate to see happen is that we keep adding new courses, and then we have to change those; we don’t get a chance to develop them.”

The pause in course proposals does not seem to faze some Staples faculty.  “We already have developed a bunch of new STEM courses: Earth Science, 3-D Design and Drawing, Creative Problem Solving, Materials and Design Science, Engineering and Applied Physics, AP Computer Science Principles, Intro to Programming, Intro to Web Programming and Building Web

Applications,” AJ Scheetz, science coordinator and science department chair of Westport Public Schools said.

However, some students are against the pause and think that high school students should take classes that interest them.

“Kids want to take more classes that will expand their horizons and will fit their interests better,” Elle Fair ’19 said.  “I hope after this apparent pause, the school will create some cool new classes.”

Other students are pleased to see STEM being represented more, but also believe it is important to maintain an academic balance.

“STEM should have a much, much bigger role in our community, especially Staples and its classes,” Greg Preiser ’17, member of the i2robotics team, said. “However, the humanities are extremely important and […] help balance STEM.”

D’Amico believes that with some patience, creativity and flexibility, Staples can figure out ways to meet these new requirements and still maintain student choice.  “There are ways—other than just earning credits—that we can make sure that these students fulfill these requirements, but we’d have to dedicate ourselves to creating that,” D’Amico said. “After we took a pause, we would come up with some really creative ideas.”