Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Pairing a Diploma With Associate's Degree

Pairing a Diploma With Associate's Degree - Washington Post

The federal government, via Mr. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB), has begun its struggle to ‘spin’ efficacy into the results of this program. The market place, however, is finding a new competing voice, as well. This is in response to decades of grade inflation and blind promotion which have put the high school diploma, the traditional ticket to opportunity, into jeopardy, despite NCLB rhetoric.

The associate degree, considered by many as dubious in value, is treading into the high school arena as the future benchmark for what represents an educated young person, ready for a world of opportunity. It will not be long before high school students, and their parents, supported by employers, demand that kids are offered curriculums that provide the community college-level ‘experience’, as an effective adjunct to the devalued high school diploma.

Community colleges are already being used as staging areas, not only for not-ready-for-prime-time students, but also for those who maintain their sights on their first choice of education, even after the dreaded rejection letter. In particular, this strategy is in practice in California, by Asian students intent on attending UC Berkeley or UCLA. Instead of going to a lesser four-year school, these kids use stellar performance at the community college level to set up a transfer, after two years, to their desired top-tier school. This route exists because California mandates that a generous number of slots are made available for such transfers from the community college system.

Advanced placement (AP) programs will remain the standard-bearer for public school kids on their way to college. However, for those who cannot handle AP-mania, the high school AA degree should tell the world that the holder did not sleep-walk through school. Meanwhile, initiatives like NCLB will continue sweeping up and around stragglers and those indeed left behind, depositing them on or about the margins of the American Dream.

James C. Collier


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