“The Integrity Of The High School Diploma Is At-Risk”—Hoover Education Success Initiative Releases Policy Briefing Exploring America’s “Diploma Dilemma”

Tuesday, February 11, 2020
Hoover Institution, Stanford University
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The second of four education policy briefs to be released by HESI in 2020, it explores the forces at play as states determine how students earn their diplomas.

STANFORD, CA – With state legislative sessions in full swing across the country, the Hoover Education Success Initiative (HESI), a newly formed research program at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, has released “The Diploma Dilemma”—a policy brief that details how high school graduation rates continue to rise even as overall academic and career skill attainment remain flat. The evidence-based policy paper includes both a summary of findings and a set of practical recommendations for state and district policymakers’ consideration.

The paper outlines the three functions diplomas signal in our economy, in our schools and in our students’ lives, and the tensions amongst them. It also discusses the false dichotomy between college and career training preparation and how that false choice is hindering both. The policy briefing, crafted with state education policy leaders in-mind, ultimately argues for revamped career and technical education programs, increased rigor in academic courses, regular measurement of student competency, and improved data collection and reporting on the range of short-term and long-term student outcomes that states should be, but often are not, tracking—from reading proficiency to job earnings to college degree attainment.

“The integrity of the high school diploma is at-risk in this country,” said Dr. Margaret Raymond, author of the briefing. “State education policymakers should consider this risk significant from a moral and economic perspective—and while the dilemma has no easy solutions there are certainly a suite of actions outlined here that states should take sooner rather than later.”

“The power of high expectations for all students, not just in vision and rhetoric but embedded in education policies, is something that our nation must return to in the decade ahead,” said Christopher N. Ruszkowski, executive director of HESI. “Fundamental to that are the requirements that each state sets for the attainment of a diploma. State and local leaders shouldn’t get to celebrate rising graduation rates if they’re concurrently watering-down requirements to walk across that stage. It’s an injustice to our students and families.”

Click here to read the policy analysis briefing.

About the Hoover Education Success Initiative

With passage in 2015 of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states are again in charge of American education policy. To support them in this undertaking, the Hoover Education Success Initiative (HESI), launched in 2019, seeks to provide state education leaders with policy recommendations that are based upon sound research and analysis.

HESI hosts workshops and policy symposia on high-impact areas related to the improvement and reinvention of the US education system. The findings and recommendations in each area are outlined in concise topical papers.

The leadership team at HESI engages with its Practitioner Council, formed of national policy leaders, and with interested state government leaders. HESI’s ultimate goal is to spark innovation and contribute to the ongoing transformation of the nation’s K-12 education landscape, thus improving outcomes for our nation’s children.

Executive Summary

About HESI