College & Workforce Readiness

A Different Way to Cut the Dropout Rate: Make Graduating Easier

By Catherine Gewertz — October 27, 2009 1 min read
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It’s a refreshing idea, but is it a good one? The Des Moines school board is apparently considering a proposal to reduce the number of credits required for high school graduation. The idea is that cutting back on credit requirements could keep the dropout rate in check.

Hmm. Let’s see. It’s politically pleasant for a state or district to be able to point to a nice low dropout figure. No argument there. But how meaningful is that number if you got it by letting more kids out the door with your blessing? I thought the idea of lowering the dropout rate was supposed to be finding a way to keep students engaged in lots of rigorous learning, not telling them that it’s okay if they just... learn less.

The argument on the other side holds, legitimately, that there is often too much fluff in credit requirements that students—particularly those behind in credits—don’t need to waste time on. But the answer, at least to my muddled brain, isn’t to cut back on credits. It’s to put good solid courses in place of the filler, and build in strong supports so that all kids can meet high standards.

Is that asking too much?

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School Connections blog.