Having a high school diploma does not guarantee success in life. If you look at this chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individual will overtake the average salary once they complete a bachelor's degree in college. So, one of the most important things to do is make sure our high school graduates are equipped to stay in the college classroom until college graduation.
The most recent evaluation of 12th graders on a national test of reading and math found that fewer than 40 percent were ready for college level work. College remediation and dropout rates remain stubbornly high, particularly at two-year institutions, where fewer than a third who enroll complete a degree even within three years.
Last Monday, the NY State Board of Regents looked various proposals to to allow more project-based assessments to earn a diploma instead of the Regents Exam itself. This might be a good way to give students more individual accountability with more rigor. They also looked a proposal to allow students to appeal their Regents score if it is between 60-64% (the current appeal level is 62-64%).
I'm not sure what the right solution is on the state level but I do know that at my school we focus a lot on preparing students to be accountable for themselves, to self-advocate, and be ready for unexpected challenges that lie ahead. We have a college retention rate somewhere in the 80%s after 3 semesters in college - something most schools cannot boast. I hope I learn what is really going on at a school-wide level sometime so I can share that information with others. It's only with methods like this can be make sure diplomas mean something and our students are really prepared for college.