No diplomas for no-shows

New York City students “pushed out” of high school are suing, reports the New York Times, in part two of a series. Again, I think the premise is flawed: These kids were failing in regular high schools, cutting classes and getting in fights. They weren’t going to earn a diploma. Here’s the lead sob story:

Haydee Garcia admits she was having a rocky time at Franklin K. Lane High School in Brooklyn last year. At 17, she had amassed only enough credits to be considered a sophomore. School officials had already called her and her mother in to discuss her frequent absences, her suspension for fighting, her pregnancy.

She was surprised to be “discharged” from high school; she tried a private correspondence course but quickly gave up.

“I just wanted to finish, no matter what,” she said.

How was she going to finish if she didn’t go to class?

Push-outs aren’t diligent students with academic problems.

They are the ones who skip classes, hang out in the halls, get into fights or do not show up at all for days on end. And in a school where basic discipline is a daily problem, getting rid of those students can make it easier to maintain order for those who do show up and do their work.

At least in theory, the pushouts themselves may benefit from being moved out of an atmosphere where they were failing and into one where they have a chance to move ahead — if they can muster better work habits. But as a practical matter, it is, for most, the end of the road. For while some enroll, at least briefly, in high school equivalency programs, few will ever get an equivalency degree or a high school diploma.

And, if they were retained, few would earn a high school diploma.

The net result of the lawsuit and the Times’ compassion for the poor push-outs is that principals will be pressured to retain students like Haydee on the rolls, so they can disrupt educational opportunities for their classmates and keep standards low. The Times should be crusading for first-class alternative programs for students who aren’t motivated or successful in regular high schools — and first-class high schools for students who are willing to show up every day, do the work and keep the peace.

Twilight has a few thoughts too.

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