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Posted at 12:15 PM ET, 02/17/2010

Should we eliminate senior year?

By Valerie Strauss

Here’s what happens when politicians get into the business of making educational decisions: They come up with ridiculous ideas like eliminating senior year in high school to save money.

A Utah legislator toyed with eliminating 12th grade, one of a number of proposals he made to shrink government spending. After being criticized, he pulled back, suggesting that senior year be made optional for kids who have completed their credits, which, he obviously didn’t know, is an opportunity already available in the state.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think senior year, as senior year now exists in many places, is sacrosanct. Reexamining who learns what when would be a useful exercise in American education.

But picking a grade to cut out of a whole sequence is like lopping off an inning or two from baseball games to save time: There are necessary changes in strategy (batting order, who pitches when, etc.) and I'm sure baseball lovers would make the argument that the substance of the game would be destroyed.

In school, kids would be applying to college earlier, even if they aren’t academically or emotionally ready, and curriculum would be pushed down even more than it has been under No Child Left Behind. Today kids are being required to read at ages when many simply aren’t ready, and the results are disastrous for their long-term education.

Of course, No Child Left Behind was drafted by dozens and dozens of people, none of them teachers. And we know how well that program has worked out.

A survey released today, the 26th annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, reveals that 69 percent of teachers do not think their voices are being heard in the national debate on education.

Sounds to me like the teachers are on to something.

What do you think about the notion of eliminating senior year?

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By Valerie Strauss  | February 17, 2010; 12:15 PM ET
Categories:  High School, No Child Left Behind, Teachers  | Tags:  high school, high senior year  
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Let's go a little further and let any high school student test out of courses the way college students can. The cost--and the complexity of a test--would keep all but serious students from trying it, they way the cost deters many callege students. On the other hand, if students had a way to "get it over with" they would have an incentive to study harder. As it is now, no matter how hard you work in Senior English, you are going to sit in that class for 180 days. If this puts a lot of students out of high school and too immature for college, let the colleges worry about that when they admit students. (Judging from the riots after games, the current system doesn't produce mature college students!)

Incidentally, I know several students who quit school, took the GED test as soon as they could, went to a community college and worked hard, and transferred to a four-year college with a good record. They simply got bored with high school and wanted out.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | February 18, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

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