Tuesday, February 2, 2010

To Boost Graduation Rates, states water down standards

USA Today's Debate: Education

OUR view:
Help marginal students with better schooling, not devalued diplomas.

A high school diploma is supposed to be proof that a child has mastered basic English and math skills, and maybe some science and history. Yet after years of progress toward that goal, several states — pressured by parents and teachers — are now watering down their graduation standards.

Among those on the dishonor roll:

•Minnesota several months ago removed requirements that students pass statewide math and science tests before getting a diploma. Legislators argued that the math standards could hold back thousands of poor-performing students.

•Pennsylvania last month ditched comprehensive exams that thousands of students were failing, in favor of optional course-by-course requirements that many districts have said they plan to opt out of.

•Arkansas, Ohio and others set passing grades for some subjects at below 40%.

•New Jersey has in past years given some 15% of all diplomas to students who fail their exit exams but do some remedial work they’re not tested on.

Other states set requirements for graduation at a junior-high level. Another 24 states don’t use end-of-course or graduation exam requirements at all, though they have course and other requirements for graduation.

So welcome back to the world of meaningless diplomas, where willfully blind parents and schools pass kids along from grade to grade without learning anything.

The results are already showing up.

Even though the number of kids getting a high school diploma has climbed to 75%, according to the U.S. Department of Education, close to half take remedial classes in math, writing, or reading when they get to college. Half drop out.

As for those who go straight from high school into the workforce, some 60% of employers rate the graduates’ English and math skills as fair or poor, and businesses spend millions per year on remedial training. FULL STORY

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