The last three Texas legislative sessions have not been kind to the value of a diploma from a Texas high school. The gutting of what was just a short time ago one of the highest rated public education accountability systems in the country has undermined the standards and assessments necessary to fulfill the expectations for post-secondary readiness that our children deserve. And Texas is not alone in this dilemma, as noted by Texas Aspires, which featured in a recent release an article by Brandon Wright of the Fordham Institute suggesting four attitudinal and policy changes that will help turn things around, not just in Texas, but across the country. When over 50% of Texas high school graduates who enter community colleges need remedial courses, we’re a long way from the state’s objective of having 60% of our 25-34 year olds secure an industry certification, an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree by 2030, so there is no more time to lose or room to further backslide. Here are the steps Wright recommends, with commentary added applicable to Texas:
- Eliminate the soft bigotry of low expectations. The excuse I hear too often from educators is “we do the best we can with what we have to work with”. This is simply not acceptable. All students can achieve; it’s our job to enable them to do so.
- College is not the only option. College isn’t for everyone, but over 60% of Texas students will need some form of post-secondary education to meet the demands of the 21st century workforce and the rest of them will need the chance for a high school diploma that qualifies them for meaningful work and responsible citizenship.
- The one-size-fits-all diploma is a thing of the past. We must re-think the high school diploma and base it on competency rather than time in school. In post-industrial America, we can’t assume that every high school graduate will be required to have the same skills; we must allow for differentiation and pathway choices.
- We must change adult behavior. “Gameable” graduation rates are meaningless as an accountability measure for educators. “Readiness” must replace “graduation” as the goal and the message to our young people, and the organizing accountability principle for schools and educators should be the enhancement of post-secondary readiness as measured by high quality assessments.
These are ambitious but achievable if we have the political will and the time is now to begin planning for the next legislative session in 2019. If you would like to be involved, go to www.texasaspires.org.