Please, please graduate

Worried that high drop-out rates are hurting their cities’ economies, urban mayors are begging teens to go back to high school, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Mayors in Houston and other Texas cities go door to door to the homes of dropouts, encouraging them to return to school. Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin meets on weekends with students and helps them with life planning.

Only about 70 percent of students earn a high school diploma in four years, estimates America’s Promise Alliance. In big cities, about half earn a diploma in four years. Detroit public schools have the worst rate: One student in four graduates on time.

Students often are lost long before high school. They stop trying, stop caring, stop showing up.

San Diego’s superintendent wants to keep low achievers in school by promoting a basic-skills diploma, while adding an honors diploma for students who pass multiple AP courses. Many California districts have raised graduation requirements above the state minimum, pushing students to take the college-prep courses required by the state university systems. From Voices of San Diego:

Offering multiple diplomas also raises worries that schools could prematurely push students onto different paths, deciding who is bound for college and who will scrape by with the minimum to graduate. It is a problem that has surfaced in classes for San Diego Unified students with disabilities, who have the option of a certificate that falls short of a diploma. Teens such as Gladney say that problem already exists, with or without more options to graduate. But proponents of tougher standards are wary of providing an easier path out of high school that could leave students unprepared for college or a career.

A basic diploma is better than no diploma at all. The unprepared can get on the college or career track in community college.

Education Trust’s Counting on Graduation report finds states are setting low expectations for improving graduation rates: “Among industrialized nations, the United States is the only country in which today’s young people are less likely than their parents to have earned a high school diploma.”

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  1. California already offers a Golden State Seal Merit Diploma to graduates who score above 370 (Proficient is 350+ and Advanced is around 400+, depending on the subject) on six of their state standards tests in various subjects in grades 9 – 12.

    It’s not much of an incentive, since very few of the kids even know about it until they get their diploma. Then there’s the seal you can earn for four or more semesters in the California Scholarshp Federation. Membership is based on GPA in certain subjects plus dues payment of $5 per semester.

    Your diploma can be as shiny as you like, but it’s not going to inspire any high school student. The bright ones will toss it in the closet as they head for college. The ones who can’t pass the requirements aren’t going to work harder for a silly sticker.

    I’d rather see the districts stick with the basic requirements set out for a diploma by the state and free up assets. Encourage everybody to pass the basic diploma requirements. Spend those extra student hours and taxpayer dollars on ROP (California’s vocational school system) and community colleges. We’re holding our bright kids back and not doing our slower learners any favors by raising local high school diploma requirements.

  2. GoogleMaster says:

    Education Trust’s Counting on Graduation report: “Among industrialized nations, the United States is the only country in which today’s young people are less likely than their parents to have earned a high school diploma.”
    I would be interested to see their methods of counting. When they measured graduation rates among today’s young people, did they compare it with those of the actual parents of today’s young people, or did they compare it with the graduation rate of Americans a generation ago?
    “Today’s young people”, at least in urban Texas and probably California as well, includes a startlingly high number of students whose poor immigrant parents themselves probably have an eighth-grade education. I suspect that these students are graduating at rates far higher than those of their parents, but possibly lower than the rates of a generation ago.


  1. […] Original post by Joanne Jacobs […]