Friday, December 9, 2011

The Achievement Standards of an American Baccalaureate Certificate

Three southern states -- Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee -- have recently decided to end their high school exit exam passing requirements, instead folding the test results into the grade for a required course. Thank God my family doesn't live there! Wasting a few hours on such innocuous trivia is bad enough; a whole semester!

Our end-of-secondary-school achievement standards remain laughable. While the English standards in the new Common Core initiative look respectable, they will probably be undermined by our usual cheap assessment methods, which fail to capture the ability to write, and our mathematics standards will remain inferior to those of competing nations, regardless of the mandate given by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. And what about all the other subjects?

By contrast, my proposed American Baccalaureate Certificate would require satisfactory demonstration of learning in at least ten subjects, including English, mathematics (including at least some calculus), at least one science (biology, chemistry, or physics), a foreign language, history, geography, philosophy of knowledge, comparative ethics, physical education, and one or more electives, all taken in the last two years of secondary school. When the minimum standards in those subjects are published and established by externally written and verified assessments, we'll have a better understanding of what college-ready really means and what American students are capable of achieving!

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