The announcement about the slight rise in high school graduation rates in Kentucky is generally good news. However, a thoughtful editorial in the State Journal (Frankfort), “Dropouts and more” (subscription?), raises an important issue – we don’t want diploma awards to increase solely because districts are operating diploma mills.
The Journal editorial notes such concerns were raised in Franklin County Schools a few years ago when the local board of education voted to allow students in the alternative high school to graduate with only 22 credit hours (absolute state minimum) while students attending the regular high schools in the district needed at least 26 credits to earn a diploma.
With Kentucky’s new school accountability program putting on the pressure to produce better graduation rates, there certainly will be temptation for some school systems to try and cut corners.
Also, the operation of alternative programs in the state is very much unexplored territory. Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday has commented on the need to get more information about the performance of these programs.
Currently, there are no reports available to the public for test scores, graduation rates and other performance indicators for alternative schools. That leaves the door open for problems.
At present, in any event, it seems like the folks running alternative programs are doing exactly what we want: helping kids who need special assistance to get back on track and earn a meaningful high school diploma. I hope nothing comes along to convince me that isn’t the case.