Among a number of changes the Lincoln County Board of Education made last month is the addition of a Differential Diploma option for high school students.
The alternative program is designed to help students with extenuating circumstances graduate and meet the 28-credit hours needed to graduate in the county, compared to the state count of 21. The guidelines for the addition follow the requirements established by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
“We’re trying to help the child who maybe had a parent who was diagnosed with an illness,” Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Elaine Boysworth told the Times-News on Friday. “That child (may have) become the primary caregiver for the parent. Normally that child would end up dropping out of school, and we don’t want to see that happen.”
Referrals for the program are made by high school principals, who will then meet with the school guidance counselor, the student in question and his or her parent. The group will establish a graduation plan, explaining what courses will need to be taken and giving the student an opportunity to create a different pathway to graduate while still meeting state guidelines, Superintendent Sherry Hoyle explained.
The program isn’t designed to be a “fast track” option to cut back time to graduate, Hoyle assures; it’s seen as a way for those in need to be able to develop a plan that both meets requirements and works with whatever the situation hindering them may be.
However, those eligible will get a break on the amount of elective credits they will need to fulfill.
A superintendent-appointed board will then review prospective cases and will determine whether the student is eligible for the diploma option. If so, the principal of the child’s school will appoint a staff member to mentor the student, while monitoring the progress toward on-time graduation.
Though school officials aren’t anticipating a large number of students to take advantage of the option, there are still a group of students who will appreciate the change, she said.
“It’s not a tremendous problem (having students with situations that prohibit graduation), but occasionally situations arise,” Boysworth said. “And when they do, we want to be able to assist the students with their education, as opposed to having them give up.”
The Differential Diploma option will go into effect in the fall.