Dump 12th grade to fund preschool

Years ago, when he was making a documentary called The Promise of Preschool, John Merrow talked to a Georgian who said he’d like to get rid of 12th grade and “spend the money on free, universal, high-quality preschool,” writes John Merrow of Learning Matters TV. He wonders: Why not?

States with exit exams generally peg them to a 10th grade level, which ought to tell you something about official expectations.  Across the nation, savvy (and bored) kids are enrolling in college courses while still in high school–if their system allows.  You may recall our profile of one Texas school district on the Mexican border where many students have a substantial number of college credits under their belt when they graduate high school. Some actually receive their Associates Degrees from the local community college the same day they pick up their high school diplomas!

I conclude from that story, and from the tales from students in other school districts, that a ‘business as usual’ senior year is a waste of time. Thousands of motivated kids refuse to accept that state of affairs and so enroll in college, and that’s commendable, but why not raise the bar in high school and shorten the time?  If some students need a twelfth year, fine. But why bore hundreds of thousands of our youth?

Merrow guesses eliminating 12th grade would free up $6,400 for every four-year-old.

But every four-year-old doesn’t need preschool. Those who do — the kid whose single mom can’t read well enough to get through Goodnight Moon — need intensive, expensive early education. And they won’t be ready for college after 11th grade.

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  1. Jim Hobelman says:

    I think we waste far too much time in education. We could probably cut basic education from 12 to 8 years. A large chunk of our current high school population is there just to avoid growing up. We stuff the public schools with apathetic students who interfere with the education of those students who really want to learn.
    The kids whose single mothers can hardly read generally have a genetic heritage that conventional education cannot change.

  2. Florida resident says:

    A “… single mom can’t read well enough to get through Goodnight Moon”
    mostly needs somebody to teach her contraception.

    With unwavering respect of humanistic work of Ms. Jacobs,

  3. Ann in L.A. says:

    On the other hand…I don’t remember where I read this, but it was several years ago. Someone pointed out that we have an adult-literacy problem, and instead of addressing that directly, we developed things like Head Start in the hopes that 15 years down the line, it will pay off. Perhaps what we really need is more remedial ed for school drop outs and adults who hit the real world and finally realized why they should have paid attention in school.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      Or maybe, like we now require everyone to buy medical insurance, we can require everyone to be literate. Forbid employers to hire anyone who doesn’t have proof of literacy. Set up exchanges in each state where people can find appropriate literacy programs and provide financial assistance to people who can’t afford them.