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Graduation Time

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It's the time of year when high school seniors' thoughts turn to graduation, so two reports from Project Forum and the Center for Education Policy are perfectly timed.

The CEC policy brief linked to on this page takes a look at how high school exit exams affect students with disabilities. The conclusion is that they're not so great. States that require students to pass an exam in order to receive a diploma tend to have low graduation rates overall, particularly among students with disabilities.

Project Forum, a federally funded program of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, takes a broader view by looking at graduation rates overall, not just exit exams. The report offers 14 recommendations, including allowing "multiple measures" for students to meet graduation requirements and allowing a range of course options that satisfy minimum graduation requirements.

(Project Forum used material from other research on this issue, including some reports from the National Center on Educational Outcomes, which I wrote about last month.)

One thing I've heard from a lot of disability advocates is their concern that without federal pressure, teachers won't hold students with disabilities to a high standard. So, the advocacy of "multiple measures" makes me wonder if they also might be seen as a backing away from high standards, or if they're just part of the reasonable accommodations schools should make for students with a variety of needs.

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The UK school system provides GCSE exams for people aged 16 and A-Levels for those aged 17-18.

The UK school system provides GCSE exams (General Certificate for Secondary Exams) or GNVQ (General National Vocational Qualifications) for people aged 16 and A-Levels (Advanced-Level) or NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) for those aged 17-18. This means that even when a student is not proficient across the board, they still can gain qualifications in disciplines that they are better or proficient at. Once students have the GCSE or GNVQ qualification, they can use it to get a job or further their education at a school or college. The GNVQ also provides a great alternative as it trains in specific vocational areas, such as Childcare for example, which helps to prepare them for the working environment. In this situation they only need qualifications in Childcare. Maybe the US High School System would benefit students in Special Education and/or less competent students as well as the work-force by offering specific qualifications instead of a general all-in-one diploma.

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