Recent reports indicate high school graduation rates have exceeded historical patterns for the first time. Hooray for public education. An accolade masked by the incessant chorus of critique and legislative actions to turn over public schools to private education management organizations. Both the critiques and legislative actions are dubious given recent evidence that public schools are performing as well or better than the competition. The increase in graduation rates is one such indicator.
Still, there is no time to rest on laurels because there is more to be done.
Four innovations would accelerate graduation rates beyond recent accomplishments. Developing a program of study that enables students to complete high school in two, three, or five years would increase graduation rates. A practice successfully operative in some school districts deserves universal implementation.
Every K-12 student should benefit from what they know and can do. Competency based education and the corresponding assessments would increase high school completion rates. Nothing is more deleterious to schooling then boredom. Allowing students to demonstrate what they know and can do and awarding them credit toward high school graduation would fuel motivation and be an incentive to avoid the drudgery associated with schooling for some students.
A third innovation is already fully operative in higher education but is a laggard in K-12. Every district must require online course completion as a graduation requirement. And, the online course requirement should be part of a virtual schooling option available to every student. Anything less denies the influence of digital tools on the lives of students and the ways young people are living and will be living their lives with technology.
The fourth innovation demands that teaching and learning be personalized via robust data analytics. No two students are exactly alike. Neither should their instructional program be exactly the same. Such differentiation exists in all other professional service; personalizing education with data analytics would accelerate and increase high schools graduation rates.
Now is the time to successfully implement all four innovations. If not, why not?