Thought Experiment: What if we awarded all 40 or 44 credits or whatever students need to graduate to all the 11th graders. That's it. They are done credit-wise. (Of course, Regents must be passed).
I'll sidestep issues of motivation for the moment (i.e, the argument that they wouldn't be motivated to do anything we asked them to do --- an argument that reflects what the speaker himself or herself really thinks of students and the work we are doing in school).
The result (again if tests were passed) would be graduating a large number of kids...many of whom we would say didn't do what we really wanted them to do OR didn't learn much OR don't have the skills a high school graduate ought to have.
If you agree with this line of thinking, my next question is: so what?
So what if kids graduate at this point in time not having really done what we wanted them to do, or learning much or having skills? My own response is that it depends on (1) why the situation occurred and (2) how we relate to what we do about it in the future.
(1) Why did it occur (in this thought experiment)
IF it occurred because we have an attitude that "this is as good as it gets" and we don't have any higher expectations for our kids, then we have a problem in my opinion. This is not a school I want to be a part of.
HOWEVER, if it occurred because in our striving for constant improvement, this is what we did this time and we understand we are not yet good enough at our model, then it seems more acceptable to me that we do this. If we aren't good enough yet, someone has to pay the cost. Why should it be the student? Why should our inability translate to extra years in high school for a student? Why not bear the brunt of that cost ourselves by saying openly that of our graduating class only x % met the standards. Which brings me to....
(2) How we relate to what we do about it in the future
IF we say, there's nothing more we can do then it's a problem for me.
HOWEVER, if we use the x % of the first graduating class as a metric and set school improvement goals beyond that and hold ourselves to that then we can always get better. In 5 years we can graduate students where 90-100 % meet our standards (for example). But why should we hold ourselves to that standard for our first graduating class.
What do you think? I'm very interested in comments on this topic. Oh yeah...think of this: How different would our graduating class be (some who met and some who didn't meet the standards) from graduating classes around the city? the country? If we're worried about the consequence to the student -- what consequences and how would we prevent them if we kept kids longer?