We have established a standard used to evaluate students that we have to uphold. If a student does not pass the Bar Examination do they become a lawyer? No. If a student does not pass their Board Examinations do they become a doctor? No. Why? Because they are not prepared. If students are not passing these tests, that means they have not mastered the material they should have in school. So instead we say "hey, that's ok you didn't learn the basic requirements of what you needed to, you tried so let's just pass you anyways." We have talked about this before, but if we continue to let students move through the system without meeting requirements we are devaluing a high school diploma. As the committee argued, yes, having a high school degree is necessary to pursue many job opportunities. If anybody, with any skill level can get a high school degree though, it will not be worth much in five years.
I am not a strong believer in tests. I believe there are better more rigorous ways to evaluate student knowledge, but the system we have in place right now is test focused. If that is how we are evaluating students, we can not remove tests to help the systems. The Senate Education Committee argued that if students passed their classes, they must have mastered the content, so let them graduate. In theory yes. I would like to think that if a student passes a class it is because they know the material, but I know far to well this is not the case. For many reasons, one being its nearly impossible to fail students. Hence why we have eleventh graders that read at early elementary school levels. So if we can't fail students and they don't have to take any graduation tests, what do they have to do graduate? Show up? That is not educating. Students will stop trying because test will not matter and they can't fail classes. Similarly, teachers will stop focusing on the students that need our help the most. More teachers may ignore the students who are far behind in content to focus on the middle to high achievers because now students just have to pass the class not a test.
Obviously this plan will increase graduation rates. The 28,000 students that can't pass the exams can attend the alternative committees and walk across the stage with everyone else. All will look great on the outside but we are again lowering the expectations for our students. We will have more high school graduates that do not possess basic skills. If you really want to fix this problem and actually do something for education, the solution is not to make it easier to graduate, the solution is to do something before senior year for the students. If so many are failing it is likely because their classes fall short or they need more support. Students that fail in elementary school, middle school and early high school continue to move up each grade level. Why? We identified struggling students, lets help them. Let's look at the root of the problem and come up with a real long-term solution.