Super-size my diploma please

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I wonder if the people sitting in those auditoriums, gymnasiums, and football fields know the statistics?

If the historical trends hold true, between 25% and 40% of the students who just received their high school diplomas are ready for college and career success.

That’s 1 out of 3 students that just walked across the stage.

How long before students, parents, and communities ask – “Can you super-size my diploma please?

Principals, superintendents, and school board members have signed the diplomas. Might we be doing a disservice to our kids and our communities? “You’ve met our standard but it’s not really enough to prepare you for the next level.”

Some may argue that the definitions used for “readiness” are flawed because the assessments really don’t measure what professionally trained educators say is important.

Others see it as an issue for higher education – they are expecting too much from kids and families – all for an over-priced degree that may or may not even be worth it in the long run.

Truth is, we’re all at fault.

Over time, we have allowed the institution of education to churn along – past practice wins over best practice. Let’s stop pointing fingers and asking other people to change. Maybe it’s time to step up, be courageous and make a real difference.

I might suggest a few areas that could create a more robust high school experience – a super-sized diploma without the empty calories.

  • College Credit (in high school) – Yes, there are kids across the country earning college credit while still in high school. The most prolific form is through Advanced Placement testing. Other opportunities are through Dual Credit experiences where agreements between high schools and community college provide credit in both institutions for successfully completing a single course. There are kids across the country receiving both a high school diploma and their associate’s degree on the same day.
  • Experiential Learning/Internships– This has been popular for years in the trades (woods, autos, cosmetology).   We need to increase these opportunities for students in professional career areas as well – engineering, medicine, business, even education. High school students receive great training and experience; their college studies become far more meaningful and relevant.
  • Service Learning – Encouraging student volunteerism and community contributions help build skills and broaden perspectives beyond what is learned in a classroom. The added benefit to society can be tremendous.

The addition of these components would help to create well-rounded students with rich experiences, a deeper skillset, and an increased knowledge of what their futures can be.

A final note…

I have some great friends and colleagues that have been working like crazy to help the kids in their classes. Spending countless hours working with individual students on mastering content and skills. These great educators are stepping out of their comfort zones trying new instructional methodologies. Over the summer months and throughout the school year, devoting extra time to improvement – often forsaking time with their families.

I don’t believe it is about asking people to simply do more – “add more to your already full plate.”

I believe it is time to actually do different – to expect more from our programs, to be creative and courageous about changing high school graduation requirements, and perhaps even change the high school experience.

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