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Don't water down high school graduation standards

Canton High School class of 2017 graduated on Friday.

As a citizen keenly interested in our educational system, I feel compelled to respond to the Maryland State Board of Education’s decision to reduce the passing score needed by graduating students because too many of them are currently failing them (“Maryland revises high school graduation requirement, delaying higher standards,” Oct. 27).

While I recognize the issue is complicated, my concern is that by watering down high school graduation standards, we are failing to hold our educational system accountable. In other words, the fact that the majority of high school students are unable to pass the exam should cause us to question whether we are properly educating them.

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That’s because when the state board’s decision is forgotten a year from now, I am certain that the educational system will tout itself as one of the best in the country by virtue of its ability to graduate the highest number of high school students compared to other states. While this makes for good politics, when you look underneath the statistics, you will find that a majority of these students will graduate without the skills needed for college or a career. Indeed, a high percentage of Maryland’s high school graduates require remedial courses before starting a freshman program in college. According to Baltimore’s Promise, a city-wide collaborative composed of public, business, higher education, nonprofit, community, and philanthropic leaders, almost 75 percent of Baltimore City high school graduates require remedial courses.

When we wonder why a college student remains in college for five or six years, assuming he or he does not drop out, and incurs massive amounts of student debt, we just need to look at whether the state’s K-12 program is properly preparing this student.

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By “watering down” standards, we are not helping students but masking the many structural problems and inefficiencies in the educational system and allowing students to get pushed through when we know they do not have the basic skills expected of high school graduates.

There needs to be a greater sense of urgency for ensuring we are preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s world, and this needs to be the defining issue of next year’s election, especially as we wait for release of the report of the Kirwan Commission next year. A line needs to be drawn in the sand today, and we need the educational system to start addressing the hard questions confronting education — what does it mean to prepare a student for tomorrow,to make them college or career ready?

As citizens, we need to make sure our educational system addresses these questions as thoroughly and as quickly as possible. Failure to do so will only result in more high school graduates going out into the real world not ready for college or a career.

At that point, the question will become how did we allow the system to get away with this and sacrifice the futures of our sons and daughters and eventually the economic viability of our communities? We have enormous amount of work to do and I urge all leaders in the educational system to give this the urgency the situation demands.

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Rajiv Goel, Bel Air

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