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    Currently, in many school districts the high school issues a diploma to graduates. There are heated debates about what should be included in graduation requirements and whether students who haven’t met all the requirements should be allowed to graduate. We need a different mindset to take care of the needs of students and society. This proposal is to replace the current graduation and diploma system with something else, which we call a Student Porfolio.

    We need to be able to rely on information that a person has demonstrated essential skills and knowledge to participate in certain aspects of society.

    The needs of society include, for example:

    * An employer should be able to rely on a diploma to mean the employee or applicant can read and write — not necessarily perfectly but at least to be able to read and follow directions and write notes for customers, coworkers, and managers.

    * An employer should be able to rely on a diploma to mean the employee or applicant can do basic math operations such as counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing for transactions and administration.

    * A college or technical school should be able to rely on a diploma to mean that the student or applicant can start directed learning in entry level courses.

    * Society should be able to rely on a diploma to mean the person has a basic understanding of how the government works, including their ability to vote, how to find laws and regulations that will apply to them such as traffic laws or that they need to apply for a business license if they’re going to start a new business, and their responsibilities as a parent to care for infants and send children to school if they’re going to have or adopt children.

    The needs of the students include, for example:

    * To be recognized for their individual accomplishments, whatever they are

    * To have a personalized educational plan based on their knowledge, abilities, and goals

    * To have a clear path to further education needed based on their individual life goals

    The proposal:

    The state should track each student’s portfolio of educational achievement. Each item in the portfolio is a certificate of knowledge or skill issued by a school (with all appropriate and useful metadata, such as the date, name of the school, and the state). If a student moves from one state to another, a copy of the porfolio should be sent to the destination state.

    All students who completed the K-12 grades of school (or later an equivalent school) should graduate and celebrate their accomplishment. However, the graduation should be viewed as a personal event and should not be a requirement for any job or further education.

    The diploma should be merely a current copy of the student portfolio at the time of graduation. It is merely ceremonial and should not be used for any official action. Employers and schools that need to know an applicant’s qualifications should request a copy of the student porfolio from the state (with the permission of the student).

    The “all or nothing” approach of a diploma should be abandoned in favor of a badge or certificate system to recognize the essential knowledge and skills that a person has demonstrated and allow the person to benefit from those even while they work on obtaining additional badges or certificates; this would allow someone to, for example, qualify for a low-skill job after having obtained the reading badge and not require them to have the math or writing badges if those skills aren’t needed for the job; whatever badges or certificates a student has earned by graduation day should be recognized, but if a student hasn’t completed all available badges and certificates they should not be ashamed, rather they should make a commitment to continue their education after graduation and obtain the badges or certificates that they need to be successful.

    The social stigma of not having a high school diploma should be addressed; there should be no shame in not completing all available badges and certificates; to facilitate a focus away from stigma and towards a positive outlook on learning and achievement, schools should ensure that they offer an adequately large variety and depth of badges and certificates so that no student can complete all of them; this means all students must choose their areas of focus in addition to knowledge and skills that are considered essential
    A diploma, then, should be a working document more like a resume of badges and certificates earned, so that everyone receives a diploma when they enter (not graduate) high school and can continuously add to it as they achieve more and more in school and also after graduation; the diploma should be maintained by the state government and only accredited schools should be able to submit badges and certificates for inclusion in a person’s diploma.

    Schools should track what badges and certificates students have earned and advise them on what badges and certificates they will need depending on their life goals, and also provision extra help such as tutoring and extra time in school (before or after the regular school day, or on weekends) for students who are struggling to achieve their goals and who need more time in a positive environment that is conducive to learning; this will be especially helpful for students whose home is not conducive to completing homework for whatever reason.

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