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Hypocrisy in the diploma-cy

October 01, 2004

DAN KIMBER

A former student came by for a visit last week with his "high school

diploma" in hand. Being that he was only a junior last year, I was a

little surprised at this sudden fast-forward in his academic life.

I've had other students over the years who have wanted to

short-circuit their time in high school by taking extra courses

and/or high school equivalency exams.

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But this was different. This young man had a "diploma" from an

"accredited institution." He achieved this after having passed a

qualifying test which, I have learned, bears absolutely no

resemblance to high school exit exams given by our public schools.

The certification given this young man came from a place calling

itself Century Academy. It claims to be fully accredited by the

National Assn. for the Legal Support of Alternative Schools. Other

accrediting organizations, like the American Assn. of Drugless

Practitioners, or the National Private Schools Assn. -- both

institutions that "welcome students as they are" -- are popping up

all across the country to meet a growing demand for a cheap

alternative to a high school diploma. One "professional association,"

the National Independent Study Accreditation Council, openly states

that they "cannot guarantee the actual education of any individual

student."

The push for greater choice in our children's education, which has

lately swelled the ranks of charter schools, private schools, and

home schools, has also spawned some rather ugly offspring. With the

apparent indifference of our state's education establishment, and the

outright cooperation of our junior colleges, these fly-by-night

businesses have capitalized on an educational establishment that

seems more concerned with processing students than teaching them. It

is part of a growing trend in my profession that seems to award

quantity over quality and image over substance.

The counselors at our school have made inquiries. Letters to the

State Department of Education have gone unanswered. A letter to the

president of Glendale Community College got a "thanks for your

interest" with no explanation or justification for cooperating as

they do with these organizations by honoring their "diplomas." The

one positive response has come from Congressman Adam Schiff, who was

"appalled at the situation and was going to look into it."

I am at a complete loss to understand how our state, on the one

hand, desires to sledgehammer standards into the daily lessons of our

public schools, but then, on the other, is indifferent to a gaping

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