Diplomas: Retain or Retire?
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by Brian Mos

If you are a high school student, you probably plan to get a diploma before you leave school. You will need one to get most jobs or to continue your education into college. However, I am starting to wonder whether or not diplomas were ever a good idea. They are very non-descriptive and uninformative. They prove that you took three math classes, but diplomas do not specify which classes or what grades you received. Consider these three points:

A person who barely earns D letter grades in his required academic courses and raises his GPA to a 2.0 by taking the simplest electives possible will receive a diploma.
A person who takes and passes as many "AP" classes and "Dual Enrollment" classes as available and finishes with a GPA of 3.8 earns an identical diploma.
If the AP person chose not to take a full credit of physical education, he would not even receive a diploma without begging the administration for a waiver.

It is certainly necessary to have a system that certifies a person's achievements in high school. However, "one size fits all" diplomas are not the answer. Many people who will receive diplomas are not literate enough to read this article.

A better system of certification would be easy to create. When we leave school we should receive a report on our education. This will be similar to a transcript. It should list the classes that we pass, possibly with the grade we received. Affixed to this report should be short descriptions (5-10 lines) of each class taken. Instructors should write these descriptions by the end of each year, making them useful to anyone who reads the report. Students should also be able to choose to have tests, such as the Writing Assessment Test or FCAT, included on this report. This way, those tests will not be completely worthless, as they are now.

By issuing descriptive reports, instead of blanket diplomas, we will also reduce class sizes and improve class conduct and productivity. The state government will not be able to bully students into taking unnecessary or unwanted classes. They will no longer be able to take away our diplomas because we believe that 18 weeks of "Life Management" is a waste of our time. Teachers spend far too much of their time trying to keep the class's attention. By not forcing students into undesired classes, the students who do attend will show genuine interest.


This page was last updated 07/02/00 01:50 PM