One Size Does Not Fit All

February
2006
Michelle Pilati, Chair

Recent media coverage of the programs that some community colleges have established that provide a means of earning a high school diploma have suggested that such programs are merely a "loophole" for those students who are not able to pass the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE). Such articles ignore the fact that these pathways to achieving this academic milestone have long been in place and certainly were not developed as a devious means of circumventing new or existing practices that ensure some level of competency prior to being granted a high school diploma. Without even considering the quality, consistency, and validity of the existing programs, an argument can readily by made that this is a valuable service the california community colleges offers to the community-people of all ages throughout our state.

While high school may be a pleasant place for most students, it is a nightmare for some. Even those of us who had generally positive academic experiences can think back and remember those students who struggled every day. Their challenges may have been due to an inability to fit in, unmet learning needs, challenges at home, and/or a general discomfort in a traditional academic environment. Regardless of the reason for a student not succeeding in high school, they should have some alternative.

In today's world, a high school diploma is a necessity for most career paths and it is only right that mechanisms be in place that address the needs of as many students as possible.

A minimum level of competency is necessarily an element that is a prerequisite to earning a high school diploma-but this certainly does not mandate that there be some standardized exam by which such competency is established. Local colleges have well-established curriculum processes that ensure the integrity of all their course offerings-be they courses designed to meet the needs of students seeking either a high school or a college diploma. Multiple measures and alternative paths are fundamental tenets of our system. While there is nothing inappropriate about asking how competency is assessed, the initial assumption should be that our colleges are acting in an appropriate and academically sound matter.

Helping students, who have stumbled in high school, to complete their education at a college has an obvious value. These students are venturing on to a college campus where they can, not only gain the diploma they initially need, but be inspired to go beyond that and seek vocational training and/or a college degree.

The existence of a link between the high school and the college is a first step in increasing the number of high school students who go on to pursue a college degree.

Due to the positive fiscal impact associated with obtaining a college degree, do we not have a responsibility to all youth to provide multiple routes to attaining a higher education? Should not all students be encouraged to pursue a degree in higher education, even if they were not able to complete high school via the existing route?

As the diversity of our state increases and as the need for formal education increases, we must continue to develop creative means of addressing the needs of our population. And when what we do is called into question, we must step forward and remind the public of why we do what we do and how our activities are always designed to meet the needs of our students in a sound academic and professional manner.

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