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When a high school graduate doesn’t have credentials for his or her state college

A high school graduate may cradle a diploma. But that might not be nearly enough to get into a state university.

“High school graduation rates have soared across the country over the last decade, accompanied by the cheers of educators and lawmakers alike,” reports the Center for American Progress in a recent report. “But in the vast majority of states, simply attaining a high school diploma does not qualify [a graduate] to attend a public university.”

The gist of the report is this: Every state has different requirements for coursework in subjects like math or science, in order to get a diploma. Some vary in that they look for demonstrations of “mastery” rather than specific classes.

There’s nothing wrong with that, in and of itself. But public universities in the states have their own criteria for classwork to qualify for admission, and they are often not aligned with the requirements for a high school diploma. This means that the universities don’t believe that high school diplomas require an education with sufficient rigor to deserve a place in their incoming classes. And that just doesn’t make sense.

Co-author of the report, Laura Jiminez says, “Within a state, it should be clear — and it should be aligned — that if I go to a public high school system, I should be eligible for a public university system in my state . . . There really just isn’t agreement within the states about what it means to be college- and career-ready, and that’s why we’re seeing these different sets of policies.”

One of the biggest shortcomings is that nearly half the states don’t require the kind of foreign language education that the state schools look for.

One powerful example, according to the report: “In California, home to perhaps the best-regarded public university system in the world, entry requirements for math, English, foreign languages, and art at University of California and California State schools all exceed completion requirements at California public high schools.”


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