How to solve senior slump? Eliminate senior year

The weather turns warmer, seniors are already accepted into college, the pressure is off — and the slacking begins.  All of this comes in a warning from an admissions consultant in a guest post in The Answer Sheet,  providing a cautionary tale about the dangers of so-called senior slump.

Could senior year disappear? Photo by David Shankbone

“It becomes increasingly difficult for many 12th graders to focus on their school work and do what they need to do,” writes Bruce Vinik, president of Vinik Educational Placement Services, Inc. Vinik goes on to describe what happened to an A student whose grades dropped dramatically during the latter half of her senior year — and how a college that accepted her nearly rescinded the offer.

In Utah, meanwhile, a lawmaker has proposed what could be the most effective way to solve senior slump — get rid of senior year altogether, although for entirely different reasons. Utah state Sen. Chris Buttars, a Republican, suggests that eliminating senior year would reduce the state’s $700 million deficit, according to a story in Politics Daily.

The two different stories underscore some major disparities in U.S. education and ways of thinking about it. The consultant whose piece appears in The Washington Post charges parents to “guide students through the challenges of the admissions process and to help them maximize their college choices,” although his website does not disclose the fees.  Some college consultants have been known to charge upwards of $35,000 to help with everything from essays to applications.

There is no disputing that Vinik  makes money from the anxiety surrounding getting into “the right college,”  a preoccupation of those who can afford to lay out extra money for extra help.

Then there is Utah, a state that, like so many others, is experiencing financial turmoil. But eliminating a year of schooling has appeared to be a solution that will not ultimately be helpful, especially at a time when President Barack Obama is pushing more Americans to get college degrees, and much of the conversation in the country is geared toward increasing graduation requirements and improving the quality of teaching and learning. Every day, some 7,200 high school students drop out.

“I’m quite involved in the community, and what we’re trying to do is get greater rigor in our public education system, not less,” Utah state Sen. Patricia Jones, a Democrat, told Politics Daily. “That to most people seems to be moving backwards instead of forward.”

What about more efforts to keep all students engaged and interested in high school for all four years?

Liz Willen

POSTED BY ON April 26, 2010