Here’s a novel way to reduce the dropout rate and increase the number of students who go to college: Get rid of the 12th grade, replace it with a year of service and reward students by giving them two years of free college.
That’s one of the “big ideas” presented in a new and rather pricey book titled The Future of Higher Education: Perspectives from America’s Academic Leaders. (Paradigm Publishers, $74.80).
The five-part book comprises a collection of essays from various educational leaders. Part 4 is probably the most relevant to the youth work field. It is titled “New Students: Rethinking Access to Higher Education.”
Part 4 is where you’ll find the radical idea about scrapping the 12th grade. The idea comes from Charles B. Reed, chancellor of The California State University, in an essay titled “The Future of Academe: Serving Our Underserved Students.”
Reed doesn’t present doing away with the 12th grade as a way to reduce the dropout rate, although that would undoubtedly be one of the collateral benefits of converting America’s K-12 system into a K-11 system.
Reed ‘s logic for doing away with senior year involves retooling the system so that the money saved from scrapping the 12th grade would be reinvested in math and science. That way, he says, “we can really get our young people to understand these critical subjects and teach them to others.”
“Senioritis” – that lackadaisical feeling that school work doesn’t matter in 12th grade -- would be a thing of the past under Reed’s plan. Instead of what Reed calls the “wasted year,” youths would be required to perform community service or military service, and subsequently given two years of free college.
“If we get them to attend the first two years, we can get them to stay and graduate and then move into the workforce,” Reed argues. “By doing this, these students will be more mature, will have had life experiences, and will understand better the needs of this country.”
Although Reed’s idea of doing away with senior year is intriguing, chances are in this era of educational innovation and reform, when the government and funders are looking for evidence-based practices, it’ll have to be done on a small-scale trial basis first before it’s implemented on a national level. Still, it’s interesting to consider the ramifications of such a plan. Questions range from what happens when youth opt out of the year of service and choose to do something else, whether that’s college or work, to whether the savings should be reinvested at the secondary level or sooner.
But will “junioritis” will become the new senioritis?