If you've read many USA Today editorials, you know there is hardly an issue -- no matter how controversial or complicated -- on which the paper will not try to find the middle ground. In this piece, the paper tackles the subject of high school exit exams, which 26 states use to make students prove they have learned what they were supposed to in order to get diplomas. Without them, a high school diploma becomes less and less valuable. But with them, many kids will get left behind without a diploma. The editorial agaonizes over the dilemma and comes to this conclusion:
*Offer students "seat-time" diplomas if they can't pass the tests. Many states take this path, usually calling it a "certificate of attainment," or second-tier diploma, in lieu of a regular diploma. (Massachusetts offers a stringent appeals process to identify the truly test-phobic.) That means the student met the local graduation requirements but not the higher state standard.
This last approach appears to be a good middle ground. Students struggling to pass the tests have an incentive to stay in school. At worst, they get a seat-time diploma. At best, they have incentive to try for a regular diploma.
In a word, nonsense. If you're going to have standards, have standards. A "seat-time" diploma will end up being worth what a "general" discharge from the military is. There are five types of discharge, but the minute people hear you got one other than "honorable," they stop listening.
On the other hand (to use a little USA Today-speak), students are supposed to be tested and graded along every step of their academic careers. The fact that an exit exam is even felt necessary is tantamount to an admission that that job is not being properly done.