Just as I suspected, high school graduation requirements are all about keeping seats warm, not about actually teaching students anything. That will soon change in eight states, according to Sam Dillon in the NYT; as Kentucky education commissioner Terry Holliday says, “We’ve been tied to seat time for 100 years. This would allow an approach [to graduation] based… around move-on-when-ready.”
Those states will allow 10th-graders who pass a battery of subject examinations to proceed directly to postsecondary education — vaguely recalling the entrance examinations that Robert Hutchins’ administration applied to 16-year-olds applying to the University of Chicago in the 1940s.
I faced similar stupidity when I left high school after three years: at the time, North Carolina required four years of English credits. English classes from the local state university weren’t acceptable, either. A deal was struck wherein my high school would pre-print a diploma and hold it until I provided a transcript showing that I’d completed a year at university. (As far as I can remember, I never did pick up that diploma.) It appears that N.C. has lightened up and now allows students to complete English in four semesters, since it’s now a national leader in early college high schools.