Editor's note: This post is a submission to Fordham's 2018 Wonkathon. We asked assorted education policy experts whether our graduation requirements need to change, in light of diploma scandals in D.C., Maryland, and elsewhere. Other entries can be found here.
Years ago, I was asked to speak to school officials and parents who were rethinking their district’s graduation requirements. They wanted outside opinion on what should be required.
I suggested they talk to employers who hired high school graduates and to community college instructors. What knowledge and skills did an eighteen-year-old need to qualify for an entry-level job and pass an entry-level class? That should be the requirement.
The district was trying to focus on the “whole child” and was considering adding a requirement covering emotional health, good citizenship, love of learning—stuff like that. An earnest man asked what I thought.
“Imagine a student who’s a miserable human being,” I said. “He hates school, doesn’t get along with people, isn’t a nice guy, but he’s passes all his classes with A’s. Now imagine denying him a diploma.”
A shudder went through the audience.
“You wouldn’t do that,” I said. “So don’t require it.”
That’s still my advice. Don’t...