Friday, September 25, 2020
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Voxitatis Launches the Verbo de Verbo Project

Ever since I attended the graduation ceremony at Indiana University in Bloomington in 1999, a few words have dominated my thinking about how we measure schools, spoken by the dean of students as he presented the class: “Schools ought to be measured not by those they accept, but by those they graduate,” he said.

Today we measure (public) high schools mainly by standardized test scores, and without detracting from the information these assessments can provide in the ideal case, I find other measuring sticks more informative.

Therefore, I would like to invite you and your student graduation speakers to an online forum, where I am trying to highlight a few of those other school measuring sticks, which paint a new and unique picture of the great job our schools are doing. The forum is free, nonprofit, and noncommercial.

The topics I hope you will talk about include (1) preparation for college, (2) critical thinking, (3) appreciation for the arts and literature, (4) preparation for skilled work, (5) social skills and work ethic, (6) citizenship and community responsibility, (7) physical health, and (8) emotional health.

How do you think schools should meet these challenges, and how have you met some or all of them this past year?

Even if you choose not to comment yourself (and I certainly understand), please give your students an opportunity to put their graduation speeches online. They can present to the online community a “snapshot” of life at your school through their own eyes. And even though they will speak these words very soon, the online community is a whole new audience for their thoughts.

I thank you for your time, and I truly hope that free contributions to a project like this will allow you and other school leaders to see how individual creativity can drive our schools to grow. If you would like to participate and/or give your students this opportunity to speak for themselves (and I hope you do), please point your browser at the link below:

All my best,

Paul Katula
Executive Editor, Chicago Voxitatis
Cellphone: (630) 863-5871; Voice mail: (410) 767-7510

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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  1. The phrase verbo de verbo is a Latin idiom meaning “word for word.” Chicago Voxitatis is committed to presenting the most accurate and up-to-date picture possible about our schools, and we feel that an actual speech of a student who has graduated is the best place to start.

    Principals can also speak for their schools, but they tend to have less time for communication with the public. However, school test scores are mostly a matter of public record at this point, thanks to the No Child Left Behind Law and associated policies. These tests tell us a great deal about how our schools are meeting the academic needs of our students and even of different subgroups of students, but they don’t present any information about the whole-life meaning of high school.

    For over half of the students in high school, that graduation day will be their last commencement. Without making any judgments on how good or bad it is to go to college, we simply note that the high school graduation is a big day.

    Yet high school dropout rates, which have been in the news this past year (mainly because different states can’t seem to agree on how dropouts should be counted), are a perennial challenge for this nation. People who drop out of high school before making it to graduation have a tendency to lead unhappier lives than those who walk across the stage to get their diploma.

    In a 2006 study, Terence P. Thornberry, Melanie Moore, and R. L. Christenson found that dropping out of high school leads to a greater tendency to commit crime in adulthood. Scientific studies are always finding new things, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s a pretty big deal to make to graduation.

    In April, America’s Promise Alliance issued a report that showed that the graduation rate was lower than 50 percent in 17 of the nation’s 50 largest cities. Former secretary of state Colin Powell is the founding chair of the alliance. He said, “When more than one million students a year drop out of high school, it’s more than a problem; it’s a catastrophe.”

  2. Although there are lots of speeches and comments published on this website from a wide variety of people, this is not a site where you just type it in and we post it. We actually do some editing (fixing punctuation, spelling, etc.) and we make sure you are who you say you are (not a robot or a computer spammer). We do our due diligence to make sure everything’s on the up-and-up.

    When the speeches or comments are finally published on our website, they are under a license that was designed by Creative Commons specifically for the online publishing of text. Speakers or writers agree that others may use their words as long as proper credit is given, no changes are made, and the words are not used for commercial purposes.

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