Diploma Requirements ‘Out of Sync’ With Common Core, Report Says

By Erik W. Robelen — June 12, 2013 2 min read
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Most states that adopted the common-core math standards lack high school graduation requirements that ensure all students will get the coursework they need to meet the new expectations, according to a report issued today.

Only 11 common-core states fully meet the definition of math alignment set out in the report by the National School Boards Association and Change the Equation, a Washington-based coalition of business leaders promoting improved STEM education. Those states include North Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio, and Arizona. Another 13 states that adopted the common core are partially aligned, the organizations conclude. In all, 45 states plus the District of Columbia have adopted the math standards.

“Until states and districts reexamine their graduation policies, a high school diploma will not necessarily signify college- and career-readiness as envisioned by [the] common core,” says the report. Careful alignment with these policies “can send an important message to communities that they are serious about the higher bar set by the new standards.”

The report determined that graduation requirements most likely to be aligned to the common-core standards must include math in each year of high school and convey substantial content typically taught in Algebra 1, geometry, and Algebra 2 classes.

States whose graduation requirements were considered not aligned include California, Colorado, New York, and Pennsylvania.

The report comes just as I finalized a new Education Week story looking closely at recent debates and developments concerning Algebra 2. As I’ve blogged recently, both Florida and Texas have taken steps to back away from expecting all students to complete Algebra 2, though some other states have recently started to implement new graduation requirements for Algebra 2 (or its equivalent), such as Tennessee, Arizona, and Ohio.

Although the common core does not explicitly state that students take any particular courses, the standards at the high school level spell out learning objectives in several areas, including algebra, geometry, and statistics and probability. Also, an appendix to the standards spells out model pathways for high school coursework.

The report offers several noteworthy caveats. First, even states whose graduation requirements “appear to reflect the demands of the common core” may not truly do so, if the content of those courses doesn’t really match the standards. Also, the report emphasizes that states need not necessarily require a course called Algebra 2, an imprecise label that gets applied to all sorts of courses (a point I also explore in my new story).

“States and districts may decide to organize common core content into coherent and rigorous alternative pathways towards high school graduation that do not easily align with traditional course titles,” the report says.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.