Canyons Superintendent David Doty has a new, powerful ally in his quest to entice high school students to take more math and science.
Utah's higher education leaders, including State Higher Education Commissioner William Sederburg, have endorsed Doty's proposed college-and-career-ready diploma.
"I hope and expect that other districts will follow your lead," said Sederburg in a Feb. 1 letter to Doty. "On behalf of the Utah State Board of Regents, I offer our endorsement of your proposal and pledge our support."
Sederburg isn't alone in his praise.
A majority of Canyons parents -- 61 percent -- also support the idea of a differentiated diploma, according to a district-commissioned poll discussed at Tuesday's school board meeting.
And the LDS Church has agreed to schedule seminary classes before and after school, which would free students to take more core classes during the regular school day.
Believing academic rigor to be the best predictor of success in college and the workplace, Doty wants to entice, not force, students to take heavier loads.
If his proposal wins board approval, Canyons will become the state's first district to offer three diplomas: an 18-credit basic diploma; a 20-credit Advanced diploma requiring advanced math and two credits of foreign language; and a 22-credit Apex diploma that puts students on track to qualify for the state-funded Regents' scholarship.
Even the most rigorous Apex track leaves room for 10 electives, or two classes a year, Doty has argued.
At 18 credits, Utah's graduation requirements are among the nation's lowest. The state upped standards this year by requiring an additional unit of English, math and science.
But that's less than what many neighboring states require, wrote Sederburg, who could not be immediately reached Wednesday for comment.
"Rigorous course-taking matters for all students, but is particularly important for students from disadvantaged backgrounds," said Sederburg. "The gap in college completion rates between white students and black and Latino students is cut in half when students take four years of challenging mathematics, including Algebra II."