What does a high school diploma mean anyway?

A few years ago I caught flack for stating in a faculty meeting that we could not guarantee anything about someone holding a diploma from our high school. We can’t guarantee that they can read, we can’t guarantee that they can write, and we can’t guarantee that they can do simple calculations. They probably can, but we can’t look the public in the eye and say for sure that all students who “earn” a diploma can do these things. I don’t think our school is unique – I think it is a widespread problem. Pressure from parents for better grades, pressure from the state to decrease the drop-out rate, and simply pressure from students who think they’ve worked hard enough to pass all lead to grade inflation and passing students who really have not done the work. All we can really say is they sat in enough chairs in enough classrooms and continued to breathe so we gave them the piece of paper.

So it was with great interest (and a little feeling of validation) that I read about a law in Oregon. Senate Bill 744 to be precise. It passed both houses and was signed into law by the Oregon Governor. Perhaps I am missing some details, but the bill summary says the bill Prohibits State Board of Education from requiring for high school diploma that student show proficiency in a any academic content area if student successfully completed credit requirement. In other words, if a student sits in enough chairs in enough classrooms, continues to breathe, and enough teachers give them a passing grade they will “earn” a high school diploma. It doesn’t matter if they learn anything or if they can do anything – they don’t have to demonstrate anything to get the piece of paper. All I can say is…wow, I really got nuthin’

If you’re reading this, let me know in the comments – just say hi or something. If enough people do that for me I’ll keep writing. Otherwise I might as well stop. Thanks for reading (and commenting).

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