Emma Yackso: Leave no one behind

Letter from Emma Yackso, Charlottesville

The Virginia Department of Education has recently proposed a new plan that ties high-school accreditation to graduation rates, not just test scores. This is a huge step forward, but there are some major issues with the plan. First, their current proposal endorses low expectations. Schools could encourage students into lower-achieving programs and still meet the graduation target.

As a high-school senior, I have personally witnessed many students who, because they were not encouraged by the school system, have not lived up to their academic potential, a waste that we should not allow. This proposal will only reinforce these actions, showing schools that it is acceptable to place students in non-diploma programs that they will certainly do well in, or to direct them into a lower diploma track.

I know firsthand the difference in requirements between diplomas. For an advanced diploma, one must take and do well in rigorous classes, whereas a standard diploma is much more easily achieved. The goal of Virginia schools cannot be to push students through lower programs in order to guarantee themselves accreditation but to provide every student with an academic experience that challenges them and pushes them to their highest potential.

The second problem is that this proposal includes no plan to close racial and socioeconomic graduation gaps. If the bar is raised, more of the groups that are often neglected will have to get over the hurdle as well. The draft must be amended in order to provide each student with the best academic experience possible.

It is vital that state officials receive our thoughts on this proposal soon. There will be hearings around the state, in which Virginians will be able to directly address board members, on Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. To find out where a hearing is being held near you, contact the VDOE at 804.225.2524. If you can’t attend the hearing, please send in your comments to SOACOMMENTS@doe.virginia.gov by Nov. 5.

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