In the search for better graduation rates, schools are fudging the numbers
Students walk through the halls of a high school in Philadelphia in 2013. (Matt Slocum / Associated Press)
In 2014, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced a spectacular improvement in its graduation rate: Fully 77% of students who had come in as 9th graders four years earlier were now going to graduate as seniors. But there was a bit of a trick behind the number: It included only students who attended what are called “comprehensive” high schools. Those who had been transferred to alternative programs — the students most at risk of dropping out — weren’t counted. If they had been factored in, the rate would have been 67% — still good, but not nearly as flashy a number.
Here’s another example of a misleading number: In May of this year, the California Department of Education reported a rise in the statewide graduation rate, to 82%. But one reason for that was the cancellation of the high school exit exam, which used to be required for graduation and which students could pass only if they had attained a modicum of understanding of algebra and English skills.
In a time when most middle-class jobs require at least some training beyond 12th grade, raising the number of high school graduates is considered essential. Dropouts are not only more likely to be unemployed, but more likely to be imprisoned. That’s why the newly passed federal education law, optimistically titled the Every Student Succeeds Act, requires states to hold high schools accountable for improving graduation rates.
The question, though, is whether schools will bring those numbers up the hard way, by improving the quality of education – or by falling back on shortcuts and gimmicks. Early indications suggest that they’ll do a combination of both. States and school districts, not just locally but across the nation, have already come up with a wide array of ways to make graduation rates look good on paper:
-- When large numbers of students across the country failed high school exit exams over the past decade, states made it easier for them to pass. California devised a simpler test; in New Jersey, students who failed were permitted to take a far easier exam that asked them only one question for each subject area. And if they still failed, they could appeal by doing an essay or another project. Last year in Camden, N.J., after nearly half the students In the search for better graduation rates, schools are fudging the numbers - LA Times:This piece is the second in a two-part series. Read part one here.