The high cost of cheap diplomas
“Making graduation too easy” doesn’t just undermine “the motivations of students (and teachers),” writes Robert Slavin, who directs the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins and chairs the Success for All Foundation. “It also undermines the motivation of the entire system” to improve.
If educators can keep doing what they’ve always done, knowing that numbers will be fiddled with at the end to make everything come out all right, then the whole system can and will lose a major institutional incentive for improvement. . . . The high dropout rate of inner-city schools is . . . a crisis encountered by hundreds of thousands of vulnerable, valuable students. Loosening standards and then declaring success, which every educator knows to be false, corrupts the system, undermining confidence in the numbers even when they are legitimate. It fosters cynicism that nothing can be done.”
Slavin believes there are “effective strategies that would enable virtually all students” to meet “appropriate standards in elementary, middle, and high school.”
But it’s easier to fiddle with the numbers, he writes. “From 2006 to 2016, high school graduation rates have increased from 73% to 84%,” while 12th graders’ reading and math achievement hasn’t improved since 1992.
In response to graduation scandals, teachers in high-poverty schools say “they are pressured, even threatened, to promote and then graduate every student possible.”
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