in Education

Should we say goodbye to the 12th grade?

Western Tech a high school in Toronto, Ontario...
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According to a Utah lawmaker, the state’s budget woes indicate to him a need to end high school with the 11th grade.

Contending 12th grade is a wasted year for most high school students, Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, suggested Monday that the state could save $102 million by compressing high school into three years…Buttars outlined his proposal for members of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee, dismissing 12th grade as a uniquely American tradition that is followed for reasons no one can identify.

So would three years of high school be enough? We could look to our neighbors to the north, for some examples. Ontario once had thirteen grades until budget cuts and pressure to match the 12th grade norms of the rest of Canada (and the US) forced a change. On the flip side, Quebec only has 11 grades, but then students attend a two-year post-secondary institution prior to attending university if they want to do so in Quebec.

While it seems unlikely the Utah plan will go far, will budget concerns force us to alter the way we educate students? I think we can already say it has, but what affect would a plan like this have on college admissions? Would institutions view a 3-year high school diploma the same as a 4-year? Would lawmakers increase funding to community and technical colleges to make up for the increased number of students who choose to attend them after 11th grade, in the absence of a 12th grade year? Some might say setting 16 and 17 year olds loose a year early would be good for them, but I don’t know if we’re really prepared as a nation to make that happen.

Still, with all of the budget cuts and lingering recession upon us, all it would take is one successful implementation of a program like this to have it spread around the nation.