"By lowering graduation standards to a point that everyone graduates, the state of Ohio has made the high school diploma virtually worthless."
Some recent articles and headlines have stated that the Ohio Department of Education is already looking to soften its freshly minted new rules for high school graduation (going into effect for the class of 2018 and beyond). Educators across the state are saying that the new end of course exams (replacing the Ohio Graduation Tests) are too hard and, unless changed, graduation rates will soon fall. Millennials are already the “everyone gets a trophy” generation; are we now trying to add “everyone gets a diploma”?
As an economist, I’m here to tell you that decreasing the graduation rate in Ohio might actually be a good thing. Let’s start with the basics. In general economic terms, when you significantly increase the supply of something, the price and value of the product falls. By lowering graduation standards to a point that everyone graduates, the state of Ohio has made the high school diploma virtually worthless. Think if everyone had a new Cadillac - it would be hard to sell one.
Everyone knows there are large numbers of students that should not go to college. Unfortunately, most educators seem unwilling to differentiate between those ready for college and those who are not – they want to give them all the same diploma. If the state chooses to maintain its new higher (harder) standard and fewer students graduate, the diploma would mean more, be worth more, and could act as a better indicator of those ready for college.
Yes, I know it sounds heartless to encouraging creation of a system that graduates less and fails more. Thankfully, it does not have to be so harsh. The new graduation requirements already allow for “earning industry credentials” as an alternative pathway to earn a diploma. This is the perfect option for a student who is not college bound and/or struggles in certain academic areas. The problem is that most schools are not connected with industries to understand these options and how to connect their students to them. Therefore, they’d rather just make the academic tests easier. This does an extreme disservice to the students and the community.
Did you know there is a projected 2 million worker shortage in construction and the average skilled trades person earns over $50,000 per year after only a few years of on-the-job training? Let’s leave the current new graduation system alone. Let’s set a high bar for academic performance that becomes a true indicator of college readiness while encouraging our students to consider a wide variety of industry credentials rather than trying to put every student on a “college track”. There is absolutely nothing wrong with encouraging young people to consider careers in the trades, earning middle class income, without college debt.
For more information go to ovcef.org
Author - John Morris, President