School Board GamesFebruary 18, 2009
Davy Smack-DownFebruary 20, 2009
The Star-Ledger reports today that the DOE granted “preliminary approval” to their own plan to increase graduation requirements for the state’s high schools. (Boy, must have been a grueling debate.) You can see from our earlier post here that they’ve back off some: algebra 2 is not on the list of required courses, nor is chemistry, though kids will still have to pass some version of chemistry, environmental science, or physics, and also take a third-year math course “drawing on different disciplines.”
It’s a slightly watered-down version of the High School Redesign Steering Committee’s original recommendations, which came under fire from the Education Law Center (who argued that the increased rigor would increase the drop-out rate among poor urban kids) and the Vo-Tech schools (who argued that the increase in graduation requirements would stymie their kids’ success by limiting the time available for vocational programs.)
The Star-Ledger adds,
There has long been acknowledgement that New Jersey schools produce some of the nation’s brightest scholars. But the spectrum is broad. In support of the changes, education officials have trotted out embarrassing statistics showing nearly half the students entering some four-year public colleges here and even more entering community college require remedial training.
It’s all part of Corzine’s attempt to standardize curricula across the State in order to diminish the differences among our 616 districts. The DOE had to make the requirements rigorous in order to satisfy high-achieving districts who already offer algebra 2 and chemistry, not to mention calculus and AP physics. The problem is that erasing differences is not as easy as approving your own recommendation. A wave of the Governor’s wand won’t turn Camden into Short Hills.
Here’s the piece from the Asbury Park Press, which gets into the opposition to the mandate. According to the Press,
A group of urban parents protested the plan, saying that more needs to be done to be sure teachers are trained and schools are properly equipped. In an open letter to the state board, they asked that the board insist on a plan that “won’t punish our youth for our school systems’ failures.
And Stan Karp, of the Education Law Center, reiterated:
The plan imposes new mandates but does little to help schools reach them.
Here’s the pickle we’re in: our high school graduation requirements are too lax for our high-achieving districts but changes make the requirements unduly rigorous for some of our kids who don’t have the educational advantages often inherent in wealth, like classy preschools and enriched cultural opportunities. This conundrum is not unique to New Jersey. But if the DOE and Corzine are to make any progress in their attempts to consolidate school districts and lower property taxes, they have to have a paper trail that proves that you can go to school in a neighboring township and still get the educational advantages of your home school. This is the agenda of High School Redesign, and the compromises announced today must be a bit disheartening to proponents of regionalization.