Both Republicans and Democrats want students to succeed. We want our 20-somethings to have opportunities (and to move out of our guest room!)

But we have a different view of what constitutes “success.”

It appears, California Democrats think it’s good enough to have kids graduate, even if the diploma is meaningless to employers.

Republicans have always supported a strong public education system because we want every child to have the opportunity to find their way in the world, to prosper and to fulfill their dreams. That can only happen if they are actually educated, bringing value to an employer or clients.

Lance Izumi is a Koret Senior Fellow in Education Studies and serves as the Senior Director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute. He recently published an article that supports our concerns about the misinformation Democrats are proclaiming that high school graduation rates equal opportunity.

Fake Achievement: The Rising High School Graduation Rate

By Lance Izumi
July 20, 2017

Over the past several years, the U.S. high school graduation rate has climbed significantly. That increase, however, is not necessarily due to better performance by our nation’s public schools or to higher achievement by our students. Rather, across America, states and local school districts are lowering the bar for earning a high school diploma, which—lo and behold—raises the graduation rate.

According to the latest data, an all-time high of more than eight out of 10 U.S. high school students graduated four years after starting the ninth grade. Yet that rate is deceiving. States have been lowering their bars for graduation for years.

Back in 2003, for example, New York reduced the testing requirements for high school students to graduate, and state officials have continued to ease up on the pedal in subsequent years. Recent decisions by New York’s Board of Regents made it possible for students to graduate even though they had not passed all five of the required Regents exams.1 The New York Times observed that the resulting increase in the graduation rate “made it hard to know whether schools were doing better or students were simply clearing a lower bar.”2

In California, Governor Jerry Brown and state lawmakers eliminated the state high school exit exam requirement, and presto! More students graduated. In the Los Angeles Unified School District alone, 1,400 high school seniors in the class of 2015 had failed to pass the exam, but when the requirement was removed, they received their diplomas and the district’s graduation rate rose by four percentage points.3 The Los Angeles school board also reduced the graduation requirement that students pass college-prep courses with a C grade, allowing them to pass with a D instead.

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