by James A. Bacon
More than nine of ten students who entered the ninth grade in 2015 earned a diploma within four years, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) reported earlier this week. Of those more than half graduated with an advanced diploma.
That sounds like the Virginia educational system is doing its job — and maybe it is. But it never hurts to scrutinize the claims of high-level educators who, like any bureaucrat or politician, is motivated to put the best possible gloss on things.
Here’s how Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane framed the graduation results in the VDOE press release: “Virginia’s on-time graduation rate has risen by more than 10 points in the decade since the department began reporting graduation rates that account for every student who enters the ninth grade. I believe this long-term, upward trend will continue as school divisions and the commonwealth adopt equitable policies and practices that provide instructional and support services tailored to the unique needs of every learner. (my emphasis).”
Let’s parse that last sentence. Lane didn’t attribute the upward trend of the past 10 years to “equitable policies and practices” — he said that equitable policies will help maintain progress in the future.
What constitutes “equitable” policies and practices? “Equitable” appears to be a code word for “relaxing standards.”
To earn a standard degree, students entering the 9th grade beginning in the 2011-12 school year were required to earn 22 “standard” units of credit and six “verified” units, according to the VDOE website. “Students earn standard credits by passing courses. They earn verified credits by successfully passing courses and passing associated end-of-course SOL tests or other assessments. Passing a standard course is largely up to the teacher. Passing a “verified” course is more rigorous in that mastery of a subject requires verification by an outside entity.
But students entering the 9th grade beginning in the 2018-19 school year are required to earn 22 standard units of credit and only five verified units — one less verified unit — to earn a standard diploma.
Similarly, to earn an advanced diploma, students entering the 9th grade in 2011-12 had to earn at least 26 standard credits and at least nine verified units. But students entering the 9th grade in 2018-19 need earn 26 standard units and only five verified units — four fewer verified credits.
Given the less stringent standards, Virginia schools are virtually guaranteed to see a higher percentage of students earning both standard and advanced degrees. But don’t mistake the better numbers for an actual improvement in the quality of education they are receiving.There are currently no comments highlighted.