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Diplomas Rewarded but Skills Lacking: No Surprise When Time is Constant

December 29, 2015

Mokoto Rich’s NYTimes recent article “As Graduation Rates Rise, Experts Fear Diplomas Come Up Short”, indicates that the increase in graduation rates does not translate into an increase in the percentage of students who are ready for college or ready for work. Rather, it reflects a either a willingness on the part of of public schools to offer alternative ways to earn a diploma or a watering down of the graduation standards.

The article detailed the many paths schools offered for high school students to attain diplomas, the continuing laments of businessmen and college deans about the lack of preparedness of high school graduates, and the persistently low test scores on ACTs.

I am not at all surprised by this state of affairs. Why would the class of 2016 perform better on tests when state governments did nothing to increase preschool programming in 2000? Why would the class of 2016 be prepared for a workplace that demands the ability to “collaborate and communicate effectively” when schooling has focused on passing standardized achievement tests, schooling that does nothing to develop those skills? And why would the class of 2016 attain different results on the ACT when the structure of schooling in the grade levels leading up to high school have not changed and the instruction in those grade levels has narrowed to help students pass poorly conceived standardized achievement tests? In short, as long as time remains constant the learning will be variable…. same as it ever was.

But here’s the quote that jumped out at me the most:

“Does that diploma guarantee them a hope for a life where they can support a family?” asked Melanie D. Barton, the executive director of the Education Oversight Committee in South Carolina, a legislative agency. Particularly in districts where student achievement is very low, she said, “I really don’t see it.”

I can only say that if Ms. Barton wants to guarantee high school graduates with “…a hope for a life where they can support a family” she needs to look beyond high schools. South Carolina is one of the States that refused to increase Medicare funding, is a “right to work” state that has led the race to the bottom in wages, and is a state where racial and economic segregation of schools persists. Improving schooling for disadvantaged students is important… but so is increasing the minimum wage, providing health care, and providing equitable funding for schools. If South Carolina and other states retain the same K-12 structure, expect all students to learn at the same rate in the same fashion, and expect underfunded schools to perform the same way as schools in affluent communities we will always get what we’ve always gotten… same as it ever was.

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