This week the Oregon House of Representatives passed a bill that will deny graduating seniors their diplomas until they “showed proof of application to college, the U.S. armed forces or into an apprenticeship program." One the bill's sponsors, Rep. Tobias Read, says the bill isn't "about telling someone what is right for them but helping them make sure they're considering the choices and taking a step towards an option that's right for them." In other words, students are required to start planning for life after graduation. That can't be so bad, right?
Well, I'm not sold. Just because you make a student apply to college doesn't mean she'll be able to put together a good application—or that she'll actually decide to attend if she gets in. The bill doesn't put into place any structure—like a college and career exploratory program—that school districts will have to follow to help kids understand why college is a good idea and guide them through the application process. Without that help, kids who weren't thinking of college before this bill will only be going through the motions after it.
According to the latest data, a full third of Oregon students don't even graduate on time. The focus should be on helping struggling students get through high school successfully, not forcing them to go through an application process that they don't understand and aren't invested in. Oregon would be better off instituting intervention programs that actually help students that exhibit the known signs of dropping out.
Unfortunately, solutions like this—and last week's Minnesota decision to deny high school dropouts driver's licenses—make for good "we're getting tough on kids" soundbites for politicians. And, doing something real will cost money. Oregon's legislators were proud to point out that this non-solution won't cost the state a dime.