St. Paul school district reduces credits needed to graduate

St. Paul Public Schools is permanently reducing the number of graduation credits needed to finish high school.

The district said in January that current seniors would need just 86 credits to graduate, the minimum allowed under state law. Families were told Wednesday that move will be permanent.

Before this year, St. Paul students on seven-period days had to earn 94 credits, including 28 electives; now, they can graduate with just 20 electives.

Students at the three high schools on block schedules have had to earn 110 credits, including 44 electives; this year, they can get by with 20.

“SPPS provides multiple enrichment opportunities for high school students. Students can and will be encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities beyond the minimum number of 20 elective credits,” the district said.

The change comes as all district high schools move to block schedules next year. The lower bar represents a 22 percent reduction in credits needed to earn a diploma.

An incoming freshman could earn more than enough credits to graduate by scheduling three block classes and a study hall each day during the first three years of high school and just two classes each day as a senior.

Reducing the required graduation credits is just the latest move by the district during the coronavirus pandemic to make it easier for students to finish high school. Failing grades were changed to passing in spring and fall 2020, and student now can enroll in credit recovery at their home high schools rather than alternative programs.

The district’s four-year graduation rate last year was 76 percent, down 2.3 percentage points from the 2020 class.

“On-time graduation for students who meet the state graduation requirements remains a top priority for SPPS. These changes allow students to focus on core classes as well as their areas of interest and need,” the district said.

Although the school board approves policy changes, the reduction in graduation credits is considered a procedure within the graduation policy, so it did not require school board approval, and the board has not publicly discussed it.

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