Friday, December 04, 2009

Hooray for Texas?

Currently I'm working on one of the final papers I have falling due with the end of the semester. The assignment has to do with designing an evaluation, and I've been planning to look at the impacts of some kind of state curriculum mandates. This has led me to look around for any states with interesting recent changes in their curriculum policy. Anyway, I stumbled upon Texas as having started some interesting new graduation requirements this year that I'll probably be looking at for my paper. That is all fine and dandy, but why do I express this ambivalent reserved hopeful excitement? It is because of one of the many other things that happens to be buried in this bill.

In a strange mood to fool around with graduation policies, the Lone Star State has decided to run an early-readiness graduation pilot program. Colleges and universities are being solicited to coordinate with school districts to invent an assessment system that can facilitate early high school graduation by giving students an opportunity to demonstrate that they are ready for college, ostensibly at any point during their high school careers. Why is this potentially a ridiculously awesome thing? Because at its base, compulsory secondary education is oppressive and this can create an opportunity for some willing and able people to escape it. This is also cool because it is the first time I've heard of a policy plan that sought to inquire about what people really need to learn from school that can in turn inform future policies about what the schools require. Granted, “need” here is defined as including achievement levels in core-curricula and readiness for continued education. However, as I've learned time and again since I began teaching, successive approximations of the goal are something to rejoice over. Now there are lots of other doubts that hedge up my joy. What sorts of attitudes and expectations are the universities going to bring to the table? If the findings are good are Texans really ready for a radical policy maneuver that would be implicated by this? How would the teachers' unions respond if this proliferates enough to threaten job security? Et cetera. But either way it's something to keep the ol' eye-ball on.

11 comments:

Maddy said...

Is this different from Utah's early graduation program? Utah has both an early graduation program and an early college credit program (college courses while still in high school). Plus now there is a charter school that Peter went to where when the kids graduate from high school, they already have an associates degree.

Jacobus the Scribe said...

I am unaware of Utah's early graduation program. I should probably look into it. There has been the opportunity to obtain college credit in high school for as long as I can remember in Utah through "concurrent enrollment." In Payson this meant that you could get credit both for the high school and at what was then UVSC. Texas law also has some provision for this sort of thing that I don't know the details of because it's one the many things I'm ignoring while I work on my paper.

For me the main thing is that just about anything that increases people's range of choices in education is good, and here is an example of one state moving towards more choice, while federal policy is moving quite strongly in the opposite direction.

Maddy said...

Just google "Utah early graduation" and you can find more about it. It is a much better program than when I was going to high school. Back then, the earliest you could graduate was as a junior, and you had to fulfill all the requirements during the regular school year (summer school was only for those behind in requirements.) Plus, you could only get college credit through AP or concurrent enrollment. Now you can do online courses, independent study courses, summer school, charter schools, etc. More options are always a better thing.

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