The Diploma Dilemma: Setting Students Up for Success
Published July 6, 2022
High school graduation rates have been on the rise, but they often don’t reflect better outcomes. To give the appearance of providing a better education, states and school districts have lowered graduation requirements. Instead, schools should focus on promoting proficiency in order to better prepare for them the job market.
High school graduation rates have risen significantly in recent years. But they often don’t reflect better outcomes; instead states and school districts have lowered graduation requirements.
School districts have immense discretion in determining the levels of learning needed to pass a course. Most districts use “Carnegie Credits” to measure academic progress toward a degree. These credits are based on the number of hours in a classroom, rather than actual learning outcomes, which means students may amass enough graduation credits without learning much.
The result is that we are shortchanging our students, and unfortunately, the pandemic has made things even worse.
What can we do to reverse this trend?
Schools must focus on mastery of subjects rather than hours spent in the classroom. We need to close the gap between what students learn in high school and what they need to successfully pursue college, training, or work after graduation. This means we will need new ways for students to demonstrate what they know and what they can do.
While this might lower graduation rates in the short-term, continuing on the current path is a costly charade that fails too many students.
In contrast, focusing and measuring proficiency will mean better jobs for high school graduates and more opportunities for them in the future.