The Diploma Debate: Advocates Raise Concerns Over Options & Equity
March 22, 2018

Amidst an ongoing national conversation about the true value of a high school diploma, New York state is tackling critical decisions about how to avoid “second-class” paths to graduation. A recent brief from The Education Trust-New York raises key questions about graduation policies and provides short-term recommendations for education leaders.

Equity Alert: Graduating to a Bright Future asserts that New York’s most recent high school graduation rates present a “mixed picture” of progress on college and career readiness. This includes a modest overall increase in graduation rates, but a possibly disproportionate reliance on Local diplomas for historically underserved groups of students, and a concerning decrease in the graduation rate of English Language Learners.

The brief also examines early local implementation of Regents diploma “4+1” pathway options, including “cause for concern” that specific groups of students could be tracked into career-focused pathways rather than college-and-career-focused pathways. Moving forward, EdTrust-New York recommends that school districts with troubling trends for any group of students should be required to establish action plans to improve their Regents diploma and overall graduation rates. Find their full list of recommendations here.

In light of recent graduation standards scandals in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s annual Wonkathon asked policy experts to address whether high school graduation requirements need to change. In addition to discussing the value of different levels of diplomas, wonks weighed in on graduation policy factors including student attendance, external validation, high school counseling, diploma levels, and college and career readiness.

Advocates from the Center on Reinventing Public Education, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, America Succeeds, and the Center for American Progress were among the Wonkathon participants. Find the winning essays here, along with the full list of entries.

Christina Dobratz

Christina is PIE Network's Project Manager, Communications & Policy  

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