Will new common core standards increase the drop-out rate?

Chester E. Finn Jr., whose Thomas Fordham Institute is a booster of national educational standards, worries that the Common Core curriculum being discussed for 48 states (including Kansas) may be pushing more high-school students to drop out.

I’m by no means the only person with doubts about the wisdom and economic utility of making college universal. My immediate concern, however, is that even as raising the K-12 academic bar does great good for a great many people, it will also discourage others. Faithfully “enforced,” it could worsen the dropout rate even as it better prepares those who complete high school to succeed in college and the more challenging occupations.

He also calls for new, meaningful paths for high school students who aren’t interested in going to college, a situation in which “each path leads to a worthwhile place—but not all of them to college.”

One possibility, he said, is outlined in the report Tough Choices or Tough Times, which has already been adopted in various degrees by six states. I had some favorable things to say about the report back in 2007 (PDF). It’s hard to know, however, whether public schooling as we know it is able to re-engineer itself along the lines that Finn desires.

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