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Advocates Say State's Grad Plan Doesn't Quite Make the Grade

October 28, 2008

Charlottesville, VA - About 18,000 public school students in Virginia aren't ending their school years on time, and with a diploma in hand. In response to that statistic, the Virginia Board of Education has proposed a new plan that would tie school accreditation to graduation rates. The public has a chance to weigh in on it this week.

Attorney Angela Ciolfi with the legal rights group JustChildren, believes the plan is a good start. She worries, however, that students who are falling behind would be encouraged to earn a G.E.D. or other type of modified diploma, that may ultimately be less valuable in the workplace.

"Every child should have an equal and meaningful opportunity to earn a standard or advanced diploma, because those diplomas provide the greatest options after high school."

Proponents of the current plan argue that any credential is better than none. Ciolfi counters that it is possible to have a plan that encourages all students to stay in school to earn standard and advanced diplomas. In her view, Virginia is a leader when it comes to education policy, so there's no reason not to have high expectations.

"Especially when it's so important to produce a diploma graduate who has the skills that our 21st century workforce needs."

The State Board of Education holds public hearings on the topic on Thursday (Oct. 30) in Alexandria, Chesapeake, Highland Springs, Waynesboro, and Wytheville. Comments are also being accepted online, at www.doe.virginia.gov.

Eric Mack/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - VA