Saturday, August 5, 2017

Chicago High School Graduation Requirements

In a decision which didn't attract much attention outside of Chicago, perhaps because people don't think it will make that much difference, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago School Board recently changed the law regarding high school graduation. Starting in 2020 in order to receive a high school diploma, a student not only must successfully complete the coursework but also demonstrate to the school's satisfaction that he or she has a plan for post-graduation success. Approved plans include college admission, military admission, a job or an apprentice program. In other words the government must approve of your plans post-high school. If the government doesn't approve then you don't get your diploma.

THE JOB of K-12 education traditionally has been considered complete when students walk across the stage to get their diploma. That is about to change in Chicago with an ambitious, and controversial, initiative requiring public school students to have a post-graduation plan to earn a diploma. Chicago leaders are right to make official what long has been recognized — the need for more than a high school diploma to succeed in today’s economy — and, more importantly, to accept responsibility for helping students meet that challenge.

Starting in 2020, under a plan championed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) and unanimously approved by the school board, diplomas will be tied to students devising post-secondary plans. High school seniors must show they’ve been accepted into college, or the military, or into a trade or “gap-year” program, or have secured a job. The idea is to raise expectations and thus produce better outcomes for students.

About 60 percent of the district’s students already have post-secondary plans, and officials believe that requiring students to plan for “what’s next” will help, not hurt, the remaining students. Critics worry that students who have completed four years of high school will be handicapped if denied a diploma, but officials point out that strengthening academic rigor has produced an increase, not a decrease, in graduation rates

Before I am paid for doing the work that I do my employer does not require that I submit an investment and spending plan to its payroll and/or finance department so that those experts can review and sign off on my financial plans before paying me. No. I get my money (not enough I might add) because I have performed (not well enough the employer might retort) the agreed upon work for the specified period of time. What I do with that money is not the employer's concern, nor would I share that information. 

Same concept applies when I withdraw a larger than normal amount of money from my bank account. The teller and bank manager don't ask what I intend to do with the money, even though they might have financial wisdom I need. Not their business. When I study for certain industry standard certifications, the companies that grant those professional certifications don't refuse to pass me unless I agree to take classes for more challenging, expensive and advanced certifications. Even if everyone agrees that in 2017 to be really competitive you've just got to have this or that set of letters behind your name, it's my choice to pursue continuing education or not. The point is that grown people decide what to do with their lives. No one can or should be able to make me justify my choice to them. I may choose to allow loved ones some input into my decisions but then again I may not. Like the song says, it's my life

There are careers which do not necessarily line up with an immediate college degree or a job offer of some kind. For example, let's say that someone is talented musically and wants to pursue the arduous career path of being a bandleader with a record deal. He may spend the next decade paying his dues in small clubs across the Chicago area before hitting it big. He may become a superstar immediately. He may one day ruefully realize that he just doesn't have the talent, the creativity, the looks, the connections or the drive to make it big. 

He may give up on being a bandleader and spend his entire life working as a session musician. But whatever he does that's his choice. The fact that he decided to go down that particular path is his cross to bear. Or perhaps someone is convinced that she has the Great American Novel inside her and just has to get it out now, while she's young. She doesn't have time for anything as time consuming as a job or college right now. It may turn out that she realizes that being a novelist is not her thing but that she's an excellent editor and proofreader. She may move to NY, get her college degree at CUNY and become a powerhouse in the publishing industry. Again, her decision, not the state's. 

I do think that everyone should have a plan for their life. But that's me. There are some people who don't have a plan, but seem to do ok. You should graduate high school if you complete the coursework in the agreed upon time and get the minimum grades required. That's it. Other things are just government being a busybody or worse a bully. I am a big proponent of people minding their own business as much as possible. Less trouble that way. I am also a big proponent of family and personal responsibility. There are ALL sorts of things that were required in my household which I think were good ideas that might not be appropriate for you or yours. Rather than imposing his idea of the good on everyone, the Chicago Mayor should focus on improving high school test scores, grades and the achievement gap. It is a legitimate function of government to provide a free education. But what you do with it is entirely up to you, not the government.
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