Rethinking the 
High School Diploma

Education Next Issue Cover

Education Next talks with 
Chester E. Finn, Jr., Richard D. Kahlenberg and Sandy Kress



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WINTER 2015 / Vol. 15, No. 1

ednext_XV_1_forum_img01As states move to implement the Common Core State Standards, key challenges remain. One is how to make sure a high school diploma acknowledges what students have achieved. Should states adopt a two-tiered diploma, in which students who pass internationally aligned Common Core exams at a career- and college-ready level receive an “academic” diploma, while students who fail to meet that bar receive a “basic” diploma? Yes, say three prominent thinkers who have long wrestled with questions of standards, testing, equity, and excellence. Chester E. Finn, Jr., is distinguished senior fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Richard D. Kahlenberg is author of the definitive autobiography of Albert Shanker, and Sandy Kress advised President George W. Bush on the No Child Left Behind Act.

• Chester E. Finn, Jr.: Different Kids need Different Credentials

• Richard D. Kahlenberg: Hold Students Accountable and Support Them

• Sandy Kress: Diplomas Must Recognize College and Career Readiness




Comment on this article
  • Betty says:

    Is Common Core internationally aligned??? Really??? There is evidence to show otherwise!

  • Betty says:

    Also, it would be helpful to have more diversity…gender, race and ethnicity as part of the conversation since the impact of this track system will impact on many children of color. But as a woman of color why would I think this would happen….

  • derran says:

    The distinction already exists, the reality is that no one, other than college admissions counselors and the military recruiters, ever ask the high school for the information. Awarding a differentiated diploma based upon college and career readiness indicators is simply an attempt to segregate and label high school graduates.
    Ask the employers: how many of your HR directors request and review high school transcripts? I have asked this question repeatedly and there is rarely one affirmative response. The information is available, the energy to seek out the information is lacking. Too many times businesses shrug off their lack of due diligence, placing the blame on the “lack of readiness” of the supply of talent. When pressed on this, they will admit that they never have even considered asking for a high school transcript.

    As a person who was responsible for over 1,000 employees, I too, was guilty of this very thing. Then one day, regarding a difficult employee, a supervisor said to me, “hell you should have asked his high school principal, the guy was terrible in school. He brags about it!” Hmm…change in protocol..

    If for some unfathomable reason colleges are surprised by the lack of success of some of their matriculated students, it would seem to me that there would be enough smart people around campus to build a predictive model that would give them an actionable profile for admissions. What muddies these waters is not that they do not know who will succeed, but rather the competitive nature of luring students and tuition dollars to their campus.

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