Charlie Toulmin from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation sent me information about Colorado’s new high school graduation requirements. I’ve taken my time in writing about it as it is a forward thinking policy with a number of possible implications. For those of you thinking about state policy it’s worth taking a look as it a pushes forward while still leaving room for local control. Given that districts are responsible for schools in all states with the exception of Hawaii and where there has been state takeovers, the Colorado high school graduation policy highlights the balancing between state and local policy. It’s also a good policy study for Boards of Education who are thinking about what their next step might be beyond seat-time waivers.
I’ve highlighted a few elements of the policy, including development of a meaningful diploma, floor of competency, and new state roles. As you read through this policy, I think you will find, as I did, that Colorado established a policy that allows districts to advance aggressively toward a competency-based system, but also allows others to continue to be time-based and credit-based in their structures.
What Does a Meaningful Diploma Mean? The purpose of the GGC was to establish a minimum expectation for a meaningful diploma. In doing so, they considered multiple perspectives:
- alignment with the description of postsecondary and workforce readiness;
- alignment with the postsecondary academic admission standards for public four-year institutions;
- recognition of multiple and diverse pathways to a diploma;
- articulation through a standards-based education system;
- attainment of skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century; and
- importance of academic and career planning.
It would be interesting to see what considerations other states might use to decide what “meaningful” means. In New Mexico, we might consider lifelong learning. Other states with lower voter participation rates might want to consider civic participation.
Setting the Floor of Competency: The policy sets Colorado’s minimum College and Career Ready Determinations for English, mathematics, science, and social studies at proficiency levels on the state assessments, higher education cut scores for placement in credit bearing classes, industry certificates, and the military’s cut scores for academic consideration for preferred career training. Students must demonstrate proficiency in each academic discipline in at least one of the assessments.
So how does a district know that a student is competent? The policy goes on to list a menu of assessments and cut scores including SAT, ACT, state assessment, AP, IB, verified district capstone, concurrent college course, the military ASVAB, or industry certificate. (See the end of the post for the menu of assessments and cut scores). (more…)