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Coalition of States Agree to Raise High-School Standards

Coalition of States Agree to Raise High-School Standards

A coalition of 13 states confirmed plans recently to require tougher high-school courses and diploma requirements, changes that could affect about one in three students.

The announcement is the most tangible sign that the nation’s governors, gathered in the capital for a summit on improving high schools, want to see that progress quickly.

The participating states have committed to making their core high-school classes and tests more rigorous, and to match their graduation standards with the expectations of employers and colleges. They also pledged to hold colleges more accountable for ensuring students graduate.

Such changes would require time and significant legislative and political work, as teachers unions, school boards, legislatures and parents would be affected. Governors, state school chiefs and business executives will lead the efforts in each state.

“This is the biggest step states can take to restore the value of the high-school diploma,” says Republican Gov. Bob Taft of Ohio, who co-chairs Achieve, which is coordinating the effort.

The states in the coalition are Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Texas.

The network will aim to enforce the American Diploma Project, an effort launched last year to prepare every high-school student for college-level work. It calls for big changes — requiring every student to take rigorous math and English courses regardless of career plans, and tying college admissions to high-school exit exams.

States will maintain the option to adopt what they want, but they have agreed to broad points, such as requiring students to take a test of their readiness for college or work.

Michael Casserly, executive director of a coalition of urban school districts known as the Council of the Great City Schools, learned of the news at the meeting. While applauding the goal, he said: “Much of this conversation is taking place at a very elevated and removed level. At some point, it’s going to have to be brought down to the ground, to the local folks.”

The participating states serve an estimated five million high-school students, roughly 35 percent of the public high-school population in the United States, Achieve spokesmen said.

Achieve President Michael Cohen said the group recruited states that seemed most serious about higher standards. Other states are expected to join soon, says Taft.

Associated Press

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