What is a diploma worth?


art by Maddy Mueller

Missouri lawmakers realize a high school diploma doesn’t mean much. We, of course, know that. Some of us come to school every day, turn in most of our homework, sit like robots and wait for the 4:05 bell.
After our four years, we walk across the stage at Mizzou Arena, grab our diploma, toss up our caps and enter the next stage of our lives.
It is past time for a change.
Our high school diploma should mark a big accomplishment. It should serve to tell the world that we are proficient in all levels of academia. Now, thanks to House Bill 365, students will be held accountable.
H.B. 365, proposed in the Missouri House of Representatives Feb. 2, 2015, would change the standards required for Missouri high school students to graduate. The bill would require all high school students in the state to take one or more of a group of tests defined in the bill and test at a “proficient level or higher” in order to be able to achieve their diplomas.
The specific tests that the lawmakers outlined in the bill are the ACT, COMPASS, ASVAB or GED, or an end-of-course assessment in each core area of mathematics, science, communication arts and social sciences.
A clause in H.B. 365 gives an exception to students with special education needs who are in an individualized education program, or an IEP. While this exemption is necessary, it is not enough. There are not just two groups of high school students. Many other cases of students exist who could be disenfranchised by the current wording of the bill.

art by Maddy Mueller
art by Maddy Mueller
Imagine if a student just moved from Germany and started the 12th grade in a Missouri school. In her old high school, she had straight As and was the top of her class; however, when she moved to America, her English was not up to par with the high school standards set here, so she was enrolled into an ELL class to assist her in learning the language.
With the current bill, if that student were to take any of the tests outlined in the bill, she would not score proficient or higher. None of the tests offered in the bill are offered in German, let alone almost every single language on Earth except English and Spanish, for the most part.
That straight A student would not receive a high school diploma because she did not have enough time to learn the English language before time of graduation.
Another category of students whom this bill would disenfranchise is students with 504s, which provide special exemptions for people who have conditions specific to themselves. The special education category specified in the proposed bill does not cover them, yet by law, it is illegal for people to discriminate against them based on their disabilities if those people are funded in some way by the federal government.
While the idea behind H.B. 365 is logical and would be good for the future of this state, the bill should not be accepted in its current form. The lawmakers should relook at the wording of the bill and should add more clauses to specify how the bill would deal with students in ELL classes, students who have 504s or students who exist within other categories we may have overlooked.
Some of us have just about the same amount of knowledge on our first day as Bruins as we do on our last. This bill, if passed with the recommendations we proposed, would make earning a high school diploma an actual accomplishment. It would also serve to tell our future employers that we had more than the minimal standards of seat time, loss of sleep and seemingly unnecessary stress.
If this bill passes in its current form, the first year of students it would affect are students who graduate in the 2018-19 school year. While this is out of the bounds of the current freshmen class, it will affect all of their younger siblings if they have any.
Even though this doesn’t personally affect us, it is big enough of a concern for future generations and the young in our generation for us to be worried. Make sure you speak up and call your state representatives before H.B. 365 passes and demand that they add amendments to it in order assist ELL students and those with 504s.
By The Rock staff