School Climate & Safety

A High School Diploma Is Practically a Nobel Prize

By Ross Brenneman — June 06, 2013 1 min read

Education Week just released Diplomas Count 2013, the newest installment in an annual series focused on graduation. As always, the forces here at Education Week have made sure that there’s a lot to digest.

This year’s report is devoted to re-engaging dropouts, a topic that’s found increasing importance as the economy continues to struggle. A new study out of the University of California, Los Angeles, shows the economy being in far worse shape than previously stated. It’s getting hard to get by without a high school diploma.

There are occasional human-interest stories in the news on someone long out of high school going back to get a degree. Those are great stories (everyone loves a comeback), but they’re written because of rarity. In San Bernadino, Calif., for instance, less than one in five high school dropouts eventually got a diploma in only study. And only five states—Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Vermont, plus the District of Columbia—have no age limit on a free public education.

If there’s one thing in the report that you get to, though, I’d recommend “A Difficult Path,” an interactive game that starts with a simple, frequent premise: You are a student failing an algebra class. From there, every bad choice compounds until you face a high chance of dropping out, in part due to circumstances beyond your control. The game isn’t driven by whimsy, though, but by statistics about how students usually react to adverse situations.

When we write that school climate matters, that isn’t just crazy talk. Many things can stand in the way of learning: administration, classroom environment, discipline, drugs, sex, family, friends, peers, safety, nutrition, stress, lack of sleep—one adverse factor in school climate can bring a student crashing down. (This is why you read Rules for Engagement in the first place.) “The Difficult Path” may be an understatement.

And that’s why this report is so cool—difficult doesn’t mean impossible.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.