Echoing last week's Texan attempt to keep dropouts in school, currently-enrolled Florida students might think twice before taking that state's GED early exit. Heretofore, current students who wanted a year-round summer break could take the GED, and in return for a passing score, get a regular diploma--the same diploma as students who had completed four or more years, finished all twenty-four required credits, and had a passing score on the tenth grade FCAT state test. The practice, it seems, had flown under the radar for a number of years in many Florida districts. Effective immediately in the Sunshine State, however, students who try this will instead receive a "high-school-equivalency," the same kind of diploma given to teens who had dropped out and later returned to a GED program. Is it fair to count the early-finishers with the dropouts? Florida Education Commissioner Eric Smith says aye. "We have an obligation to make sure that a child who earns a standard diploma has met certain standards. It is an indication of what a child has accomplished." Smith cites the absence of state law authorizing the former practice as the impetus for changing the rules, but we have to note that the shift also mirrors federal NCLB graduation regulations from late 2008, which do not allow modified diplomas to be counted in graduation rates. That means Florida's overall stats may go down as a result of this move; huzzah for Smith to stand up for the integrity of the high school diploma, even when his state may suffer as a result.

"GED graduates won't get standard high school diplomas," Dave Weber, Orlando Sentinel, August 8, 2009

"New Approach for GEDs, HS Diplomas,", August 10, 2009

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