The high school diploma doesn’t mean anything, says the American Diploma Project, which was launched by a consortium of education reform groups.
The diploma has lost its value because what it takes to earn one is disconnected from what it takes for graduates to compete successfully beyond high school — either in the classroom or in the workplace.
Despite all the complaints that graduation requirements are too tough, the project calls for raising the bar, writes Jay Mathews in the Washington Post.
Here are the main points in their argument:
The new state high school graduation tests are often at only an eighth or ninth grade level, and they do little to change the fact that 28 percent of high school graduates going to college take remedial English or math courses when they start their freshman years.
Even though more than 70 percent of our high school grads attend college, fewer than half of them get a four-year degree, and that record is even poorer for African Americans and Hispanics. We Americans used to say, “So what? We still lead the world in college-going.” But the truth is several European countries have caught up with us by adopting our open university system.
Most employers say the high school graduates they hire lack basic skills. That’s old news. The American Diploma Project, directed by Sheila Byrd, has spent $2.4 million of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s money on two years of research that has produced this new and rather startling conclusion: high school graduates NOT going to college, in order to find jobs that will provide them a comfortable living, need just as many academic skills as their classmates enrolling at Old Ivy.
The American Diploma Project recommends English and math skills that all students should master to prepare for work or college.
The report offers conclusions on what students are going to need to survive in the workplace or in college from more than 300 faculty members from two- and four-year institutions, front-line managers and high school educators. One surprising part of the report for a technologically ignorant poly sci major like me were the examples of workplace tasks a high school graduate confronts these days. Here is an assignment for a machine operator apprentice at the Eastman Chemical Company:
“Ask the apprentice to mix a solution (#1) of 5 g Peters fertilizer and 50 g distilled water. Determine the percent concentration-by-weight of this solution. The basic formula is weight of the solute divided by the combined weight of the solute and solvent equals percent concentration-by-weight. . . . Calculate the density of this solution (#1). [The basic formula is] divide the weight by the volume to determine the density in gm/ml. Ask the apprentice to make a solution (#2) using 10 g of Peters and 50 g of distilled water. Determine the percent concentration-by-weight. Ask the apprentice: Why is the concentration-by-weight of solution #2 not double the concentration-by-weight of solution #1 since the solute is doubled? Ask the apprentice to use this formula to explain: C = x/x + V and 2x/2x + V ? 2(x/x + V)”