Education: Goodbye to the Rubber Diploma

A Virginia school experiment raises standards—and hackles

GREENSVILLE CO. SCHOOL BOARD OFFICE, WHERE PROMOTION IS BASED ON ACHIEVEMENT. So proclaims a sign posted outside the small, red brick headquarters of the superintendent of schools for Greensville County, Va. (pop. 16,000). Inside sits Sam Owen, a folksy, pipe-smoking administrator who four years ago announced that he was fed up with handing out "rubber diplomas" to high school graduates who could barely read or write. Greensville is one of the poorest counties in Virginia, and at the time the 3,700 stu dents, 65% of them...

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