As published in the Arizona Capitol Times on February 24, 2022
All students should graduate high school having completed a set of foundational courses and skills needed to prepare them for what’s next. This has been the core philosophy behind Arizona’s high school graduation standards. However, this past week, the Arizona House passed a measure (HB2278) that contradicts that philosophy by proposing two ways for students to graduate high school—one in which the required math courses are those needed to be prepared for college and another in which less rigorous math courses are optional alternatives to satisfy graduation requirements.
The measure represents a problematic way of thinking; namely, that because some students may not be planning to go to college right after they graduate high school, they should not have to take the foundational courses that make college-going, not to mention entrance into many career pathways, possible.
This lowering of expectations and option for less rigor will likely result in a de facto tracking system. Some students will graduate from high school having completed the coursework required for success in college and career. They will be able to qualify for college admission and be equipped with career-ready skills and knowledge. But other students—who opt out of the rigorous courses that help develop essential skills for a range of careers or that are required for college admission and career training programs—will graduate with fewer postsecondary and professional options. As a result, they will have access to a much narrower range of options in the short term, as well as more limits on their earning potential and professional mobility in the longer term.