Personalize diplomas to improve education
property taxes than do residents of most other states.
Funding impacts nearly all aspects of schooling. For example, studies show 60 to 70 percent of what students learn comes from textbooks and materials, yet resources to provide them vary greatly.
How strong is Ohio’s support for early education where graduation rates are largely determined? Both scientists and economists have warned for years about the importance of the early years, yet only recently has there been much effort to address this need. Ohio’s state-funded preschool programs enrolled just 8 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds and 3 percent of 3-year-olds. Ohio ranks 33rd out of 44 states in access for 4-year-olds and 20th among 29 states in access for 3-year-olds.
Students entering school behind and not provided appropriate interventions often remain behind, contributing to lower standards, grade inflation and social promotions, all of which affect the validity of diplomas.
Community support provides some bright spots. Libraries, community groups and even barbers offer reading opportunities for young children and employers provide internships for older ones.
The educational system could make better use of existing resources. Recently, OSU’s Ohio Educational Research Center showed how Arkansas utilized technology tracking student attendance in early years to identify which students were potential dropouts and intervene to keep them in school.
The Ohio Department of Education could share information on how many districts use which texts and programs at what cost and with what results; provide findings of valid educational research; synthesize results of district audits; better analyze available data to inform decisions. What about statewide collective bargaining, saving districts time and money and reducing adversarial relations?
Crucial parental support varies greatly and too many times is in short supply.
As for accountability, financial audits are conducted with findings made public and test results reported, but educators complain testing takes up too much time and narrows the curriculum by emphasizing reading and math to the detriment of the arts, history and civics. The need for civics instruction was never more apparent than now. Our Founders understood. Thomas Jefferson knew that we must: “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people … They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” James Madison warned, “A popular Government, without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both.”
The amount of testing could be reduced, but standardized testing with candid reporting and analyses are essential for sufficient scrutiny.
It’s not for a lack of trying that educators and policymakers have not found sufficient remedies. The latest attempt is to “personalize” education, the meaning and implementation of which vary greatly, but the intent is to tailor instruction to the interests and abilities of individual students to increase their motivation to learn.
Well then, why not personalize diplomas? After completing 13 years, students would graduate with diplomas showing how they spent those 13 years, becoming complete resumes. Diplomas would list not just subjects taken but also skill levels achieved, attendance and disciplinary records, extracurricular activities, projects, internships, community volunteering and scores received on the citizenship test that immigrants must pass. Bars and graphs could show student achievement and growth in relation to classmates, state standards and national and international assessments.
Such a record would give employers and colleges a much clearer picture of students’ abilities, accomplishments and work ethic, reduce grade inflation and end pressure on districts to increase graduation rates. Diplomas wouldn’t be just a piece of paper. Also, students, being aware of all their diplomas would report, just might be motivated to work harder and achieve more.