Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Replace the One-Size Fits-All Diploma

Washington State should replace its current one-size fits all diploma with three diplomas, similar to New York State’s Local, Regents, and Advanced Regents diplomas.

It is my belief that Washington State needs three different diplomas to radically improve the current system for all students.  The current requirements for a diploma are inadequate because they contribute to a system operating largely as a one-size fits-all system instead of respecting the vast diversity in the student population. It fails to provide an appropriate educational opportunity that meets each student’s needs.

Politicians like aspirational goals that are strong on rhetoric and weak on contact with reality.  No Child Left Behind was going to have 100% of students proficient by 2014.  Our state legislators want “internationally competitive standards” achieved by all. The current plan of one-diploma with high stakes testing and college ready courses, when universally applied to all students as a graduation requirement, has no chance of success because it makes no sense.

On August 5, the State Board of Education lowered the cut score on the SBAC testing for passing to below the “standard score for proficient”.  Then explained that this was done to ease the transition for our system and demonstrate fairness to students. This statement was needed to maintain the dual illusions of fairness and quality in this unfair one-diploma system.

This current system is incredibly weak on fairness to students.  If the current monolithic graduation requirements were rigorously applied it would be a “school to unemployment pipeline” for a significant number of pupils.  Thus we find fakery and dishonesty in place of rigor.  The current system results in teachers fudging the passing requirements for many courses as well as the lowering of cut scores on state assessments.

For several years, 25% of 8th grade students have been scoring at far below basic on the MSP Math assessment.  The SBE’s expectations for high school students avoid reality and harm many students. We must offer appropriate remedial courses and revise the diploma situation to move forward with a system that provides appropriate instruction for all and maximizes the educational opportunity for each student regardless of ability.

For the betterment of all students we should put in place three levels of diplomas and the instruction to support students in attaining these diplomas:

(1) The Academic Diploma with current graduation requirements in place in regard to credits in required courses and measures of proficiency.

(2) An Advanced Academic Diploma (similar to NY State’s Advanced Regents Diploma) that requires ACT or International Baccalaureate proficiency in at least four subject areas as well as Math credits through Pre-Calculus, a foreign language and meets all other current course requirements for graduation.

(3) The General Diploma, which would require math through Algebra and the passing of an End of Course Algebra assessment  as well as other realistic graduation requirements.  (See NY State’s local diploma.)

Here is the Dropbox link to my letter written to the State Board of Education on the necessity for three high school diplomas. ===>

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