WINNEMUCCA - With the conclusion of the last legislative session, graduation requirements tied to passing the high school proficiency will be slowly phased out. These changes will be most evident for students that are currently 8th graders, or the graduating class of 2018.

With the passage of Assembly Bill 288, graduation requirements will significantly change for all of Nevada's 17 school districts. The associated changes come as part of the increased state and national drive to increase classroom rigor, with the intent of increasing students' ability to be both college and career ready upon graduation.

Starting during the 2014-2015 school year, students will be required to pass four end-of-course exams, two in English and two in math. In order to meet graduation requirements, students must successfully pass all four exams. These exams will replace the current high school proficiencies in the areas of math, ELA, and science.

These end-of-course assessments will likely be modeled after assessments currently in place in other states. Currently, New York requires students to pass a set of end-of-course exams, known as the "regents" exam, in order to meet graduation requirements. This increased level of rigor in testing is tied directly to the expectations associated with the Common Core.

Nevada is currently one of 45 states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards with the intent of aligning instructional practices and curriculum across the nation. In addition to an aligned curriculum, the Common Core will require an increase in the rigor of instruction to ensure students are prepared to respond to testing that will require application of the concepts taught in the classroom.

The end-of-course assessments are intended to increase the skill set of students across a broad scope of instruction with an ultimate expectation that graduation rates will increase. However, these assessments will likely lead to an initial decline in graduation rates based on the rigor associated with the assessments.

In addition, AB 288 has implemented an expectation that all students will participate in a College and Career Readiness assessment, such as an ACT or SAT, during their respective junior year. Though this assessment isn't intended to be a "pass/fail" measure, it is intended to demonstrate preparedness to enter into the post-secondary environment or the work force.

In order to prepare students for these significant changes in graduation expectations, we have made some aggressive changes within the school district. The common late start on Thursdays is designed to provide strategic professional development to support staff as they change instruction to ensure alignment of the new CCSS as well as an increase the rigor of their instruction.

In addition, at both Winnemucca Junior High and Lowry High School, intensive intervention programs are being developed to target students who may be struggling academically. As we are able to "catch up" students to meet the grade level standards, students will be better prepared to pass the end-of-course exams.

This is enhanced with the intervention, support and enrichment programs (ISE) offered at Lowry. As a district, the mantra of "Failure is Not an Option" becomes pivotal to the program. Students will be provided with 60 minutes weekly of strategic and intensive intervention services if they are struggling in a core class, or have yet to pass their proficiency tests. For students on course, options to expand their curricular offerings are provided.

Ultimately, changes are being implemented to allow schools and the district to respond, so that when the new graduation expectations become a reality next year, we have made the changes necessary and ensured that the practices are in place to support every child. The expected outcome is that we will see significant increases in our graduation rates, a charge that we take very seriously.

Change never comes easily; however, change is necessary to ensure that the students in Humboldt have access to the best instruction in the state, so we expect to meet this challenge. What used to be good enough no longer is. Our staff is up to the challenge, and we are beginning to see key instructional practices improving, which have direct impact on the success of our students.

Dr. David Jensen is Superintendent of Schools and can be reached at (775) 623-8196 or at