Is 12th grade necessary?

A Utah legislator proposed eliminating 12th grade — “nothing but playing around”  — to save $102 million a year.  Now Republican State Sen. Chris Buttars has modified that to making the senior year optional for students who’ve completed enough credits.

“You’re spending a whole lot of money for a whole bunch of kids who aren’t getting anything out of that grade,” Buttars said. “It comes down to the best use of money.”

. . . “The kids either got one foot in AP classes in college, or they’re just running around taking P.E.,” Buttars said.

Utah teachers says most students need 12th grade to complete high school work and prepare for college. Those with extra credits already can collect a diploma early, though presumably Utah could offer college discounts for those who graduate early and save taxpayers money.

How many 12th graders are wasting their time — or enrolled in classes they could be taking at a local community college?

Update: Under a Gates-funded experiment, 10th graders who pass a series of exams could enroll immediately in community college. Those who fail can try again after 11th grade.

The new system of high school coursework with the accompanying board examinations is modeled largely on systems in high-performing nations including Denmark, England, Finland, France and Singapore.

The goal is to make it clear what students need to learn to succeed in college.

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  1. In my high school class way too many years ago, I’d estimate at least 40 out of our class of 260 could have done this. My senior year was essentially AP everything plus PE. 90% of the faces in my AP classes were the same. The science classes were smaller, but that was because the first casualty of senioritis was the hard sciences.

  2. With all the different personal anecdotes on this issue, it’s clear that neither a blanket requirement nor a blanket elimination of 12th grade will serve the public best. Fortunately, no such blanket elimination is now being put forward despite alarmist headlines to the contrary.
    Not to be left out, for my own anecdote, I went to a very good high school in Utah for 3 years then skipped 12th grade completely. I just went off to college instead. The only reason people could give me to stay for 12th grade was that “that was the best year socially”. I never obtained a high school diploma nor found it necessary (I’m a law school graduate now). My high school’s principal was supportive of me personally but was unable to let me have a diploma after a year of college classes because I lacked the necessary PE classes. I would never dream of extrapolating a blanket policy for all from what I did, but I’m glad I had the freedom to be a successful high school dropout.
    As part of our culture, we need to stop expecting equality of academic interest and achievement in teenagers nominally old enough to marry–it’s totally unrealistic.

  3. So when 11th grade becomes the new 12th grade, will Utah just eliminate that too?

  4. If you read the article, the headlines are not accurate. Utah is not going to eliminate 12th grade.

  5. Hmmm. I used 12th grade to take classes that enabled me to test out of about 12 hours of college. That was a win for me personally, since I didn’t have to pay for those 12 hours, but was it cheating to do that?

  6. Given a solid curriculum, explicit instruction and acceleration upon mastery, I’m sure that a significant fraction of students could complete the entire k-12 program (including APs) by the end of 10th grade and another fraction in another year. I also like the NH idea of having kids choose either intensive college prep or vocational study at the end of the 10th grade year. There’s way too much wasted time in the current situation, especially in ES and MS. Seat time and education are not the same.

  7. How about a “You cut; I choose” policy to keep public-sector employees and their unions honest? If they say that it takes 12 years at $10,000 per pupil year to prepare a 6-year-old for society, let’s take them at their word and require that schools offer an exit exam (something like the GED) that students could take at any age, and apply whatever remains of the subsidy toward post-secondary tuition or toward a wage subsidy at any private-sector employer.

    Won’t happen any time soon. The US “public” school system is an employment program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/ASCME cartel, a source of padded construction, supply, and personal service contracts for politically-connected insiders, and a venue for State-worshipful indoctrination. Waste and fraud aren’t bugs, they’re features.

  8. tim-10-ber says:

    Please remember roughly 100 years ago adolescence was not even known…kids completed a few years of school and then when to work…learn the history of american compulsory education…

  9. Tim,

    I have been wondering about that “they only had an 8th grade education!” line a lot recently.

    Is it possible that in 8 years they knew as much as most children now do after 12? Certainly they could have known more civics, history, literature, algebra, geometry, and trig.

    I wish I could find data on 8th grade tests from 100 years ago.

  10. The supposed 8th grade test floating around the ‘net is a hoax.

    I would agree that schools used to do a much better job teaching civics, history, geography, and literature. There is no question that cultural literacy used to receive a significantly greater emphasis in the schools. There has been a bit of a resurgence because of E.D. Hirsch and the Core Knowledge folks, but unfortunately not enough.

    However, when it comes to math & science, the schools today are doing a better job than when I went through in the mid-90’s and a significantly better job than when my parents went through in the late ’60’s. The highest math my high school offered was non-AP calculus and it only offered a single AP science. Now most of the bright kids take AP Calculus as juniors and “post-AP” math in 12th, and 4 AP science courses. My mom was forced to choose between honors English and honors math (and strongly discouraged from the latter); today her alma mater offers the IB diploma program.

    What we somehow need is to get back some of the rigor into the humanities while retaining the rigorous math & science courses.

  11. Captain Stride says:

    Other than a useless PE requirement I had enough credits to walk halfway through my junior year. My senior year was useless for me as a student. It was basically a year for me to hang out with friends at the expense of the taxpayers. Now I do see a need for at least an optional senior year as there were many students who truly needed that last year, but for me it was pointless.

  12. Take dual credit classes in 11th grade, and get out. No sense of sitting around taking floral arrangement in 12th grade or sleeping , like they do in regular classes.