Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 6
Seven states and the District of
Columbia expect all students to
complete a "college- and-careerready" course of study to earn a
high school diploma. The rest either
allow students to opt for another
type of diploma or set the bar lower,
according to Achieve.
n Students must complete collegeand-career-ready courses
n Students may opt out of collegeand career-ready diploma
n Diploma requirements do not meet
Achieve's college- and careerready criteria
In too many places,
graduates still have
surprise of not
for what they
want to do."
Chief Operating Officer
States Found to Offer
95 Kinds of Diplomas
Course requirements all over the map
By Catherine Gewertz
Graduating from high school is
a milestone in students' lives. But
those diplomas can mean very different things from state to state and
district to district. They can indicate
that students mastered challenging college-preparation courses, or
cruised through a series of watereddown classes.
A new report tries to quantify
that variation. The latest edition of
"How the States Got Their Rates,"
by the group Achieve, surveyed all
the states and found that 95 kinds
of diplomas were conferred on
graduating students in 2015. The
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6 | EDUCATION WEEK | November 16, 2016 | www.edweek.org
analysis focuses on how many types
of diplomas were available and the
coursework and tests that students
had to complete to earn each type.
(The study examines only math and
English/language arts coursework.)
Achieve did the same analysis for
2014 and found 93 kinds of diplomas
were handed out to students. It's
part of the organization's ongoing
push to draw attention to the real
variation in students' accomplishments, even as many celebrate President Barack Obama's announcement last month that the U.S. high
school graduation rate had reached
an all-time high of 83.2 percent.
For many, 12th grade students'
performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress
implicitly poses a question about
the meaning of high school diplomas: How can the graduation rate
be rising when high school seniors
aren't doing any better on "the nation's report card" than they were
Other studies have found wide
variations in the rigor of high
school curricula. One, by the Education Trust in April, found that
only 8 percent of high school students complete a course of study
that prepares them well for both
college and careers.
Variation Among States
States confer a wide range of high
school diplomas, and some require
far more accomplishment than others. Achieve found that while states
report their graduation rates, they
rarely disclose how many students
earn each kind of diploma. That
makes it hard to analyze how many
are getting a rigorous high school
education that sets them up them
well for college or work, and how
"The fact that [a diploma] can
mean so many different things is a
bit alarming," Sandy Boyd, Achieve's
chief operating officer, said in an interview. "In too many places, graduates still have that unwelcome surprise of not being prepared for what
they want to do."
Eight states have set the bar high,
expecting all students to complete
a "college- and career-ready" set
of courses-at least three years of
math, through Algebra 2, and four
years of college-prep English-in
order to graduate. Delaware, the
District of Columbia, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee fell into that
category in 2014 and 2015. Minnesota, Nebraska, and West Virginia
joined that list in 2015.
For those states, the graduation
rates they report publicly match the
rates of students earning collegeand career-ready diplomas. West
Virginia, for instance, reported that
86.5 percent of students graduated,
and since there is only one set of di-
ploma requirements for all students,
and it meets Achieve's college-ready
criteria, 86.5 percent of West Virginia students are considered college-ready.
In other states, it's not so clear.
Sixteen states don't offer any
type of diploma that requires students to complete at least three
years of math and four of rigorous
English. In 27 states, there are
multiple diploma options, and at
least one of those options in each
state allows students to graduate
without completing that collegeready course of study.
At a time when policymakers are
looking with renewed interest at
career and technical education programs as a promising pathway for
students who might not want to attend four-year colleges, it's particularly important for states to adhere
to diploma requirements that include a college-ready course of study,
Boyd said. Most postsecondary options will require that of students,
"There is a fundamental level
of preparation that kids need, at
least in English and math," Boyd
said. "It's dangerous to think of [a
college-ready course of study and
career and technical education] as
an either-or, because then there
is a risk of falling back into oldfashioned tracking. It's possible to
be both academically prepared for
postsecondary [options] and have
that great CTE concentration."
Achieve wants to see states do
a better job of explaining their diploma options to parents and students and to publish "accessible
and clear" information about the
proportions of students who earn
the various kinds of diplomas. Disaggregating those numbers by student subgroup, and pairing them
with information about which students are opting out of college- and
career-ready diplomas in states that
allow them to do so, would shed
valuable light on what diplomas
mean in each state, Achieve argues.
Visit the HIGH SCHOOL & BEYOND blog, which
tracks news and trends on this issue.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - November 16, 2016
Education Week - November 16, 2016
Few Women Run School Districts. Why?
Trump’s Lesson Plan Awaited
A Day After Election, Classes Are Awash in Emotions
News in Brief
States Found to Offer 95 Kinds of Diplomas
Black Teachers Feel Pigeonholed On the Job, Report Says
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Eager to Innovate: African-American Teenagers and Technology
Positive Climates May Shrink Achievement Gaps
Q&A: ‘You Just Do the Work’
Proposed ESSA Spending Rules Encounter Stiff Resistance
Oklahoma Schools Chief Facing Campaign-Finance Charges
Sharp Questions Posed In Service-Dog Case
SNAPSHOT: Title IX and Transgender Students: Some Key Developments Over 44 Years
Governors and Schools Chiefs Results
Ed. Policy on Simmer as GOP Holds Congress
GOP Solidifies Hold on State-Level Leadership
State Ballot Measures
In Mass., Voters Shun More Charter Schools
Bilingual Education Set to Return to California Schools
Education Department May Again Find Itself in GOP Cross Hairs
Teachers’ Unions Spend Big, Mostly Fall Short in Elections
SUSAN MOORE JOHNSON: To Decentralize or Not? Is That Even the Question?
JIM HAAS: Oh, the Humanity!
GREGG WEINLEIN: The School Friendship Challenge
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
GARY BEACH: Does the U.S. Department of Education Need to Be Restructured?
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - A Day After Election, Classes Are Awash in Emotions
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 2
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 3
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - News in Brief
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Report Roundup
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - States Found to Offer 95 Kinds of Diplomas
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Black Teachers Feel Pigeonholed On the Job, Report Says
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Eager to Innovate: African-American Teenagers and Technology
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Positive Climates May Shrink Achievement Gaps
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 10
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 11
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Q&A: ‘You Just Do the Work’
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 13
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 14
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Oklahoma Schools Chief Facing Campaign-Finance Charges
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Sharp Questions Posed In Service-Dog Case
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - SNAPSHOT: Title IX and Transgender Students: Some Key Developments Over 44 Years
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - GOP Solidifies Hold on State-Level Leadership
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - State Ballot Measures
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Bilingual Education Set to Return to California Schools
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 21
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Teachers’ Unions Spend Big, Mostly Fall Short in Elections
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Senate/House Results
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - SUSAN MOORE JOHNSON: To Decentralize or Not? Is That Even the Question?
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - JIM HAAS: Oh, the Humanity!
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - GREGG WEINLEIN: The School Friendship Challenge
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - Letters
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 29
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 30
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - 31
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - GARY BEACH: Does the U.S. Department of Education Need to Be Restructured?
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - CW1
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - CW2
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - CW3
Education Week - November 16, 2016 - CW4