Let’s just stop pussyfooting around and say it out loud: The “historic” peak in the country’s high school graduation rate is bullshit.
According to federal data released late last year, and dutifully trumpeted ever since (including in last night’s State of the Union address), the nation’s high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high, with 82 percent of the Class of 2014 earning a diploma. “As a result, many more students will have a better chance of going to college, getting a good job, owning their own home, and supporting a family,” crowed then-Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Isn’t it pretty to think so?
In fact, Secretary Duncan might be right for now. Confidence and good will are baked into a high school diploma. It is an academic promissory note that signals to college admissions staffers, employers, and others that the holder has achieved some reasonable level of academic proficiency. But it’s also a faith-based system. It only works if people believe it stands for something tangible.
Regarding the recent spike in graduation rates, good luck figuring out what it stands for. Not improved student proficiency, certainly. There has been no equally dramatic spike in SAT scores. Don’t look for a parallel uptick...