Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Skipping Senior year - A Step in the Wrong Direction

Skipping Senior Year – A Step in the Wrong Direction
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
June 8, 2011

With remedial classes overflowing with unprepared so-called college students, the notion of permitting them to skip their senior year in high school is terribly irresponsible.

That Governor Mitch Daniels is relying upon the conversations with relatively immature high school students to determine a need for legislation that passed in April to allow for the aforementioned senior year skip is also irresponsible. (“Skip senior year, go right to college – or not?” June 7, 2011)

The passage of such legislation allows for rising seniors who have completed their core requirements to bypass their last year of high school and head off to college. Nothing is said of earning the requisite number of credits required for graduation. Such legislation will prove deleterious to the affected students.

With the educational crisis the United States as a whole is mired in, students should be required to take more, not fewer, classes in the areas of American History, government, mathematics, English, writing, basic business and ethics, foreign language and science. This would better prepare the students for the rigors of the college classroom, as well as the so-called real world.

The United States’ ranking versus other countries is both embarrassing and demoralizing. How does the richest country on earth justify cities whose schools graduate 30.5 percent of its students? ( That is a recent figure regarding the Indianapolis schools. In Alexandria, VA, from where I just moved, the graduation rate was 70.4 percent – and that is in a school system spending $18,323 per pupil, one of the highest figures in the Commonwealth of Virginia. (

Governor Daniels’ plan is not a cost cutting measure either. His plan is to use the money saved by not having that senior in a high school classroom; that money would be used by that same student to attend college. This plan is suspect, as funding for high school and for college comes from different sources.

American high school students are already ill-prepared for life on a college campus as the Star article denotes. “Slightly more than half of students at public four-year schools graduated in six years, and only 29 percent did so in four years.” Juniors bypassing their senior year will not improve those statistics.

These students will be a year younger and certainly a year less mature than the traditional college freshman. They will, for the most part, still maintain friendships with their current friends who will be seniors in high school. They will miss activities such as homecoming, the senior prom and other rites of passage that they will forfeit in bypassing their senior year.

Instead of listening to rising high school seniors bemoan their boredom and then shipping them off to college, they need greater challenges their senior year to better prepare them for college. The core curriculum needs to be expanded.

Balance the left brain and the right brain with more art and music classes. More, assuming there are any in the first place. Add classes on economics and ethics. Certainly tomorrow’s leaders can’t be any worse than the current crop of miscreants held up as alleged role models. As a society we can do better than the Bernie Madoffs, Rod Blagojeviches and the Anthony Weiners of the world.

Add more skill-based electives such as journalism, photography, graphic arts, more computer classes, more industrial arts and home economics. High school should be a place where a student gets as well-rounded education as possible so that he or she can make better informed decisions about what to study in college. Once in college students will hone in on a particular major and course of study they will have chosen having experienced a myriad subject matter in high school.

To those critics who suggest the costs will outweigh the benefits, a public-private partnership should be considered.

School systems could hire professional musicians to teach music and float from campus to campus, thus needing fewer of them. The same with professional artists, chefs, journalists, businessmen, etc. Their fulltime employers would pick up the tab for these part-time teachers and would get a tax write off for that value.

This would be a win-win situation. High school students would be exposed to a greater selection of educational materials and employers providing these instructors would benefit from the positive publicity as being active members of the community. The schools, of course, would need to provide some training in classroom management – but that is something from which all teachers would benefit.

From personal experience as a middle and high school teacher of social studies and American history, I welcomed a member of the business community into the classroom as part of the Junior Achievement program. I would then incorporate those visits into my curriculum and lesson plans.

A segment of Friday’s classes would be dedicated to a stock market competition amongst my classes and students divided into teams. This not only had history and economics components, but was cross-curricular with the math classes as well. The experience proved both fun and educational for the students who left with additional skills that they might not ordinarily have gotten.

With the educational crisis in the United States reaching pandemic stages, we, as educators, parents, business leaders and yes, even elected officials, must reinvent the wheel, or there may not be anyone capable of steering the school bus to the front door of the school.

Sanford D. Horn is an educator with a Master’s in Education living in Westfield, IN.

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