Monday, November 01, 2010

Tiered Diplomas

Back in "the day", which is after "colonial times" and "yore" (for you Friends trivia nuts) but before "now", a high school diploma implied some minimal level of learning. People who didn't have that minimal level just didn't graduate; they went off and got a blue collar job somewhere and worked their way into the middle class.

Somewhere along the way too many people, including our president, have become convinced that the only path to success in this country goes through the gates of some university. High school diplomas don't signify anything anymore other than the ability to sit through 4 years of high school; Exhibit A for this statement is the number of college students, high school graduates all, who need remedial classes in college. Since high school diplomas don't mean anything anymore, companies use their acquisition as some minimum sorting device--no diploma, no job, no questions. Jobs that in the past would have been done by clerical staff now require a college degree just so the hiring company can have some justification for believing that the new hire has at least a basic level of knowledge and an ability to think. Thus, we continue to send more people to college in order to get a credential that a high school diploma used to confer. The cost of higher education makes this racket--what's the new popular buzzword?--unsustainable.

Rhode Island is going to try a tiered diploma system, long a staple in NYC:

The best students in Rhode Island’s most rigorous schools may get a Regents diploma showing they’ve met state standards, while most graduates would earn a local diploma, reports the Providence Journal...

The plan would give schools and students “incentives to work hard and improve during the last two years of high school,” regents said.

It's a start, a step in the right direction. Or is it? Wouldn't the students capable of earning a Regents diploma be college-bound anyway?

We need to restore the value of a high school diploma. One thing we might consider doing, if we're serious about this, is to stop giving diplomas to everyone just for showing up. If we did that we perhaps might not need tiered diplomas.

6 comments:

Mrs. C said...

I have very mixed feelings about this. I send my special needs son to school so that he can get that piece of paper in a few years. He reads at a second grade reading level according to THEM but really *I* would say that he is functionally illiterate. It is not entirely their fault he is not more fluent in his reading, though I think in the elementary years they could have done a much better job.

(For all the talk, there is no real "accountability" for people doing a mediocre to poor job. And there is no reward out there for the upper level teachers who are busting their hineys and not seeing much result test-wise who work with children like my son.)

If they tier the diplomas, employers will want the better ones. That would mean kids like my son are wasting their years in high school, as the diploma would confer NOTHING. But at the same time, we're RAISING the compulsory education age. And that's not fair if the diploma means squat.

How about we make education voluntary and let the chips fall where they may? You'd get more dedicated students/parents, schools would be more inclined to spend on vocational programs to keep kids like my son in some sort of school (so they can get funding) and the birds will twitter in the trees and live in peace with cats, etc. We should have different tracks as well as different tiers.

Well, my idea in any event. But I think in your post you ignored why people are showing up for the diploma. They aren't all bad people who don't feel like working. :)

mazenko said...

The bachelor-degree-for-all mentality is a colossal waste of time and money - and not the standard for all those European and Asian countries our politicians and critics are so fond of praising in comparison.

I like plans in places like New Hampshire and Louisiana to promote dual-credit classes and associate degrees and career/technical education. Students should be able to graduate at sixteen and enter associate degree programs and trades, and senior high school should be AP/IB style prep for a university degree.

If we are a true meritocracy, then advanced degrees and education ought to mean something.

Anonymous said...

If everyone has to have a high school diploma in order to indicate willingness to show up, then of course we need tiered diplomas. This won't come without a cost; there will be a certain group of students who work hard, would like a Regents' Diploma, but don't make the grade. There will be others who are very intelligent but not school-oriented who won't try for it and will therefore close off future educational opportunities. But what we have now isn't working for anyone.

MikeAT said...

A Task....in some sort of Condition, likely a classroom...and a Standard to reach with that task...where have I heard this one before Darren?

MikeAT said...

I like plans in places like New Hampshire and Louisiana to promote dual-credit classes and associate degrees and career/technical education. Students should be able to graduate at sixteen and enter associate degree programs and trades, and senior high school should be AP/IB style prep for a university degree.

mazenko

I am shocked, shocked my home state of Louisiana is finally doing something right with eduction...this has to be one of the four horsemen! :)

neko said...

"...and the birds will twitter in the trees and live in peace with cats, etc.

I want to know how these birds got ahold of cell phones, let alone set up Twitter accounts.