January 22, 2011

An Odd Reason to Give a Diploma

Justin Katz

Marc's post about "teaching to the test" reminds me of a peculiar line of reasoning that emerged when the Board of Regents heard from Rhode Islanders regarding a proposed tiered diploma system:

Ken Fish, who worked at the state Department of Education and helped to develop the 2003 regulations, lashed out at the plan to weigh test scores more heavily.

The original vision for improving high schools rejected high-stakes testing. Instead, schools had to prove they had made a series of required changes by 2012, such as ensuring that all students has access to high-level classes and effective teachers.

But as of 2011, many school systems are lagging in making these changes. And thousands of students remain unable to reach proficiency.

"Why are we willing to hold students responsible for an education they have not received?" Fish asked the regents.

If the students haven't received the education that they should have, on what grounds do we give them diplomas? Perhaps that sounds cruel, but it's a reasonable question and should point blame where it belongs. After all, the more productive question, in my view, is why we aren't willing to hold educators and administrators responsible for failing to provide the education that Rhode Island has promised to its students.

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At some point, there has to be some understanding of an education given vs. an education received. I can go to classes at Harvard and flunk out. That doesn't mean that Harvard is a bad school.

Sure, in HS we're technically dealing with children, but at the same time, we can have stellar teachers, but if some students only want to accept a lesser amount of that education, despite some teachers' best efforts, then why not give the students what they deserve.

When you think about it, does it make sense to give the same thing to one student who graduates with an A+ average as the student with a D- average? Why not make the distinction?

I'm actually not advocating either way, but I think there needs to be *discussion* about it, not just purely put the blame on teachers for bad students.

Posted by: Patrick at January 22, 2011 1:03 PM

Some years ago, the "one armed bandit" Dr. Silber ran the Massachusetts schools. He was poractically run out of office for the following statement "When we decided that everyone should graduate from high school, we implicitly decided to lower the standards"

Posted by: Warrington Faust at January 22, 2011 7:08 PM

Vocational programs are the future. If a kid hates school and wants to be a mechanic when he grows up, why are we wasting everyone's time and money forcing him read Henry V? Let's teach him how to fix a motorcycle.

Posted by: Dan at January 22, 2011 8:30 PM

"Vocational programs are the future. If a kid hates school and wants to be a mechanic when he grows up, why are we wasting everyone's time and money forcing him read Henry V? Let's teach him how to fix a motorcycle."

Bingo! Instead your plumber makes more than your lawyer. Why? Because every child is going to Harvard or Yale. Both schools where I have worked eliminated pretty much any vocational classes. Districts want you to believe that it's about money. It's about NEASC accreditation. Students need to have "access and opportunity" so say the folks who "matter." This is why I have kids in my AP chemistry who haven't met the prerequisites in math and science.

It feels great knowing these low performers will be sticking a needle in my arm when I'm living in a nursing home someday.

Posted by: glockster at January 23, 2011 9:30 PM
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