Kathleen Kingsbury asked that question in her November 2008 Time article. The question was based on new testing directives proposed in New Hampshire which would allow students to test out of their last two years of High School and move on to community college or technical school.
Part of argument for allowing students to test out of the their last two years of high school is economic – shortening the high school term by two years could save money states desperately need. But are there other benefits to such an approach?
High school drop out rates remain around 30% nationally, despite our efforts to keep kids in school. Failing to obtain a High School diploma undermines a student’s ability to obtain and keep a job that pays enough to keep them outside the poverty level. Many trade and technical schools require a high school diploma or GED for admission.
So would allowing students to graduate two years earlier give those children a better chance at success, assuming they’ve passed a battery of tests indicating career readiness? Or, would it create a permanent class of people who never go on to college and are unable to apply for and obtain the higher paying jobs that typically come with a bachelor or associates degree?
Professors at many four year Colleges and Universities complain that the high school graduates they receive are unprepared for college level work. Increasing percentages of high school graduates are required to take remedial, non-credit bearing courses at Community Colleges before they can complete a college level Math, English, History, or Science course. Some have argued that the college preparatory courses students take in the last two years of high school fail to prepare those students for college.
Would allowing students to test out for their last two years of high school so that they could take college preparatory courses outside the public schools better prepare them for college? Or, would it deny scholarship opportunities to college capable students who can’t afford private prep school or college and create a permanent class of college capable individuals who don’t attend college for financial reasons?
These are difficult questions which deserve consideration.
Our public schools, by providing standardized age based instruction, ensure that each child is given the same academic opportunities. Our educational model is predicated on the belief that every child deserves the same educational opportunities, even if providing the same opportunities to all means some children aren’t pushed to their fullest extent. But are those academic opportunities providing our children with the skills they need to move on to college or career training?
Our public schools, despite our best efforts, are increasingly producing graduates who are incapable of completing a college level course or entering career or technical training. International assessments, like the TIMMS, demonstrate that our public school students drop in proficiency relative to their global peers the longer they stay in public school.
Is it time to consider changing our K-12 public school model?