States have two options on handling this group of seniors: Deny them their diplomas or graduate them without the required assessments. Both options come with drawbacks. First, denying their diplomas ignores any learning that the students may have acquired between their most recent assessment and the cessation of traditional instruction. Second, if the seniors received effective NTI, then they may have passed the assessments. Denying them the opportunity to demonstrate the requisite knowledge could be considered unfair and, perhaps, even discriminatory. Finally, not graduating these seniors will depress graduation rates and skew any trend data the state is tracking.
The other option—graduating all these seniors—may not be much better. Due to the sudden shift to distance learning that left many districts, teachers and students unprepared, it is likely there will be a demonstrated decline in learning from that point forward. If so, even if the assessments were administered as scheduled, a higher-than-normal proportion of seniors would not have received a passing score. Graduating these seniors anyway makes it certain that some of them will graduate with weaker knowledge, skills and abilities than prior graduating classes. This would put under-prepared students into the workforce or into higher education programs lacking skills and knowledge to be successful.
A similar situation occurred in the early 1980s when the military’s aptitude test, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), had a norming issue that led to numerous unqualified military candidates being enlisted.
A decade later, HumRRO’s research revealed that these recruits struggled to succeed in training and in military jobs. Success indicators, such as income and advancement, showed that they had not kept up with similarly qualified civilians. It has been theorized that this lasting effect was due, in part, to their placement in a post-high school environment for which they were unqualified and unsuccessful.
The parallels are clear: 2020 seniors who graduate without attaining the benchmarks for graduation are likely to struggle in college and/or the workforce, and those struggles may be difficult to overcome. Another reason not to pass all 2020 seniors is that the state may be criticized for holding prior or future graduating classes to a different standard.