St. Edmond Catholic School is offering three new diplomas for its high school students starting with the 2014-15 year.
The school will offer a core diploma, an honors program and scholar designations in core areas of study, according to Mary Gibb, St. Edmond president.
"It covers all ranges of the students we have at St. Ed," Gibb said. "Some of the more at-risk or lower-end students could benefit from our core diploma. Some of our brightest, most academic students could benefit from the honors program. And really anybody that has a strong interest in any one of these areas could benefit from the scholar designation program."
Starting with their freshman year, students in the honors program, Gibb said, take the most rigorous courses offered at the school in all the core areas: math, science, English, social studies and foreign language. The unique diploma would be designated on the student's transcript.
"The whole intent is to prepare our students for the next level. We have to be offering rigorous courses at the high school so they can be successful in college," she said. "They have to maintain a certain grade point average. There are certain stipulations to get into the program, based on their Iowa Assessments or teacher recommendation."
An honors diploma, Gibb said, will benefit students when they apply for colleges and resources.
"Hopefully they will get into maybe a little more selective school, maybe a little bit more eligible for some scholarships when the college learns they have taken our honors diploma and received an honor designation," she said. "It's a little bit more than the traditional diploma.
Already, 13 of the coming year's 50 ninth grade students have signed up for the program.
"That shocked me, that that many wanted to do it and are willing to try it," Gibb said. "That was a very good response."
Students who excel in a particular subject can receive a special diploma emphasizing their work in that area of study.
"Let's say you have a student who's really a fantastic social studies student, but they don't excel in maybe a couple of the other core areas," Gibb said. "They could sign up to do the scholar designation program in social studies."
To earn the diploma, students perform "over and beyond" what is required of them in a particular subject area.
"It would add four more credits of social studies classes," Gibb said, as an example. "They would also have to do a capstone experience. Starting in their junior year, they would work with an advisor and it's a culminating project of what they've learned by taking those classes and they will present that May of their senior year in front of school board, administration, and parents."
Unlike the honors program, scholar designation is not exclusive to students starting their freshman year.
"This we're actually opening up to students who are currently at St. Edmond now," Gibb said. "This could appeal to anybody."
The distinction would be noted on the student's transcript, and the student would receive a separate diploma.
The core diploma
The core diploma, Gibb said, is for students who are struggling with their regular course work.
"Once they get behind, sometimes they think it's not possible to graduate and they may try to give up or transfer somewhere else, thinking they can graduate from there," she said. "This is for the identified at-risk student or a student that is referred by a team of administrators."
To earn the diploma, a student only needs 44 credits.
"They would have to meet all of the regular education requirements the regular diploma would offer. Basically, it's the electives area that's cut down," Gibb said. "They only have to do four, for a total of 44."
Offering three new diplomas, Gibb said, gives the Catholic school's students a "wonderful opportunity."
"One of my goals, all along, was to make this school academically challenging," she said. "But when I implement things I want to make sure I'm reaching all of the students, not just one section of our student population. I want to make this a great educational place and setting for all the students we have here. By offering these three, it can really touch a lot of our students."