Education

Graduation requirements could be challenging for some

Posted June 2, 2010 7:41 p.m. EDT
Updated June 2, 2010 7:45 p.m. EDT

Just one more exam, and Mollie Tew will be done with high school.

"It makes me feel good," Tew said Tuesday, of earning her diploma, along with her peers at Middle Creek High School.

But she's not exactly like her peers.

Tew, 20, has Down syndrome, and her mother, Vickie Youngblood, has fought for her to be included in mainstream classes since kindergarten.

Although Tew has met all graduation requirements – with some accommodations – high school hasn't been easy. For example, she had to take Algebra three times.

"She keeps trying. She doesn't let failing stop her," Youngblood said.

Tew followed the "Career Prep" track to earn her diploma – a track that is no longer offered in North Carolina's public high schools.

Prior to the 2009-10 school year, students had three tracks to choose. Now, there is one track, the "Future Ready Core" curriculum that requires four math credits, instead of three.

"There's this push to really get kids to move to post-secondary experiences," said Ruth Steidinger, senior director of high school programs for the Wake County Public School System.

"Math is always pretty much difficult for Down syndrome kids," Younglood said.

Youngblood said it would have taken longer for her daughter to finish high school under the new curriculum, which requires students to pass Algebra and geometry.

Steidinger says there is flexibility for students with special needs. At a parent's request, along with school counseling, a student can opt out of the math requirement in place of other math courses.

Schools are also offering new classes to help students prepare for Algebra and geometry.

As for Tew, she says she is excited to take on her next goal.

"I'm going to College of Charleston of South Carolina," she said.

She wants to be a physical therapist.

"Everybody is just so proud of everything she's accomplished," Youngblood said. "She's worked really hard for this."