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Back to April Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 219 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS APRIL 2004

Study Finds High School Diploma Is Largely Meaningless
Better Standards Needed to Prepare Students
Diploma = 0
Employers today consider high school diplomas only as proof that 18-year-olds attended school, according to a study released February 9 by the American Diploma Project, a consortium of three education-reform groups.

The project's two-year review of education in five states found that more than half of high school graduates need remedial classes in college, and most who attend college never obtain a four-year degree. Employers rated high school graduates as "fair" or "poor" on basic abilities.

High school exit exams required by nearly half the states fail to measure what matters to colleges and employers, the study concludes. Such exams "generally assess 8th- or 9th-grade content."

The report, entitled "Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts," analyzed employment data and research involving college faculty, business managers and high school educators in Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nevada and Texas. Participants included former top education officials from the Reagan and Clinton administrations. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation provided a $2.4 million grant to fund the project, which is sponsored by Achieve Inc., the Education Trust, and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.

States should raise their education standards to require graduates to master more English and math, the report argues. Currently, every state but Iowa has academic standards for what high school students should learn, but the report contends that those standards are not geared to what is essential for success after high school.

In English, the project specifically calls for mastery of spelling and grammar, communications skills, writing, research and logic, as well as the ability to read and interpret documents with technical material, to view the media critically and to understand and analyze literature. In math, the report calls for mastery of numerical operations, algebra, geometry, data interpretation, statistics and probability.

Employers and postsecondary institutions "all but ignore the diploma, knowing that it often serves as little more than a certificate of attendance," the report charges. It recommends that the National Assessment of Educational Progress test given in 12th grade be realigned based on new, tougher standards.

The study found that while both employers and college professors emphasized English skills, they emphasized different mathematical skills. Employers stressed the importance of accounting, budgeting and data analysis, which were given less weight by college faculty members.


 
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