Depending on where you live; your country, state, or province has established certain requirements you must meet, before you can call yourself a high school graduate. This is meant to insure a minimum level of knowledge and ability among this group of people that prospective schools and employers can expect.
These are the requirements where I live.
The US has a set of course requirements that must be passed for a student to get their high school diploma. These require a specific number of credits from all classes taken, plus specific classes in math, history, english, science and physical education.
Many students were meeting these requirements but were then going on to jobs or college and were unable to read, write or do math at the necessary levels. Colleges were having to administer "pre-college" level classes to high school graduates before they could continue with their college course requirements. Employers were either turning applicants away because of their lack of ability in these areas or providing them with remedial training on the job.
The state I live in – Arizona – implemented new standards, in addition to the standards required by the US. They call their program Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards or AIMS. The test consists of three areas: Reading, Writing and Math. Students must pass all three sections, in addition to meeting the US standards, in order to graduate and receive a diploma. The test is administered twice a year in 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. Once a student passes a section, they no longer have to take that portion of the test again, but they must pass all areas within 6 testing periods.
The goal was to have all high school graduates achieve college entry level skills in these three areas.
What it has actually done is open up a golden opportunity for test preparation classes, books, tutors, etc. No one wants to take a chance that they will not get their diploma, so those with money are willing to pay to ensure that their kids pass.
It has also increased the dropout rate. If you "know" you aren’t going to be able to pass and get your diploma, why go all the way through school and meet all the other requirements, just to be sent away with nothing. (Imagine telling your prospective employer, "yes, I went through all 12 grades and passed them all; but no I do not have a high school diploma").
The actual rate number of high school seniors who do not receive their high school diplomas now is between 12% – 18% (if the ones who drop out are added in it would even be higher). Imagine already being accepted to college and then being unable to attend because you didn’t get a diploma even though you passed all of your classes.
NOTE: the AIMS tests have been challenged in state courts but so far the cases have all been dismissed or thrown out. Some parents have actually moved to other states so their children will receive diplomas.
So is it right to expect ALL students to meet specific standards or not? If it is, who should establish the standards?