|Comment Period||Ends 11/5/2008|
Dear Members of the Board of Education:
I am a Virginia resident, who grew up in Norfolk, Virginia. As a high school teenager, I attended public schools. During my tenure, something always puzzled me, why my parents always pushed more intensely than the school administrators to graduate with honors. “You need to just get a diploma, so that you can get a good job or go to college.” This statement is often announced by parents in low-income homes. Unbeknownst to parents, this is untrue. Many kids go through high school, trying to attain the basics to get to the next level. Although my family was aware of the different levels and significance, other families or kids in similar age brackets in my low-income community had no idea
My parents continuously pushed me towards graduating with an honor diploma in a system that many black underprivileged kids feel deprived in. However, not adhering to their warnings, I dropped out of school for a period. Yet my mother was determined not to lose me to the streets, so she enrolled me in an adult school. I attended this school for a year and was able to graduate with my high school diploma, while earning a GED, as well. But I found all my effort and hard work required harder work, in order to gain admittance to Norfolk State University’s (NSU) four year mass communication program
Prior to being accepted into NSU, it was stated that I had to take non-credit remedial college courses because my diploma was a standard one; which also meant more money. I was speechless! I even considered giving up. But I inquired about my options and was given an entry exam, which I scored above average on and was “deemed academically competent” for regular college coursework. Since the occurrence, I have obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from NSU, currently seeking my Masters degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and am the Executive Director and Founder of Land Mindz, Inc. (a federally recognized non-profit organization). Although I overcame this barrier, many individuals still face it.
Knowing the importance and difference of diploma types would induce many parents in the low income community to push their children toward the highest attainable diploma. Yet, not knowing they simply encourage children to just graduate; leaving them to believe that they will make it easily. Thus, graduation rates are essential; especially to families in the low socio-economic community. A system should be in place to hold schools accountable for pushing kids to achieve to their fullest potential.
Accordingly, I ask that you (1) increase the target to 90 points or more to promote diploma graduates and eliminate graduation gaps among student subgroups; (2) provide a small “extra credit” value to Advanced and Standard diploma-earners; (3) weight Special and Modified diplomas below the Advanced and Standard diplomas; and (4) lower the value of all non- diploma options such as GEDs and Certificates of Completion to reflect the diminished opportunities that they offer to students. The accountability system you create will help students from low income communities, like me, to have the chance they need to achieve their full potential.