California Democrats, who onced backed a state graduation exam, now want to water down or repeal the requirement, writes Dan Weintraub in the Sacramento Bee.
The general thrust of their argument is that it’s just not fair to hold students accountable, to make their diploma mean something more than just a certificate proving that they attended school for 12 years. Especially if the schools they attended were not perfect, or were not funded as well as some would like.
But the schools will never be perfect, and there will always be some who argue that they need more money. What opponents of the exit exam are missing is that the test itself has been crucial in bringing about the very changes needed to help the poor and disadvantaged students who are most at risk of failing.
Fears that the test would lead to more kids dropping out of school proved unfounded. And a survey of high school principals found that more of them are working with middle schools to better prepare students for high school, more of them are in contact with parents, the number of schools offering demanding courses has nearly tripled, and far more principals are ensuring that students take demanding courses from the time they enter high school.
The exam’s opponents fear the stigma that will be attached to any student who, failing the test, leaves school without a diploma. Maybe they should worry as much about the prospects for students who for far too long have been leaving high schools with a diploma but without the basic math and English skills they need to survive in society.
Students need more than a diploma; they need an education.