Thursday, October 23, 2008

Honest Graduation Rates? Maybe, Thanks to Feds

Information in a new AP article indicates the days of Kentucky’s deceptive high school graduation and dropout rate reporting may be about over.

According to the AP, “Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is expected to issue new rules next week that will force states to use the common tracking system (developed by the nation’s governors) and will judge schools not only on graduation rates but on the percentage of black and Hispanic students who graduate, too.”

Tracking minority graduation rates at the school level will be something new for Kentucky. So far, our education crowd has steadfastly refused to do that because they know very unsatisfactory graduation rates – such as the ones we independently calculated and just reported for Louisville – exist statewide. Reporting grad rates for minorities will lead to more high schools failing to make the goals in NCLB.

We may not have to wait long for this to happen. Earlier this year, Spellings proposed rules that would require states to start using an interim calculation called the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate right away for NCLB reporting. Kentucky already collects the data required to compute this formula.

Assuming the announcement earlier this year is not altered substantially in the final rule, by 2013 all states will have to operate high quality student tracking systems to enable using a high accuracy formula adopted several years ago by the National Governors Association.

It will be a nice change. The AP points out, “The U.S. was slow to realize it was facing a dropout crisis.” That’s because educators did everything possible to ignore kids who left high school before the 12th grade. And, educators used all sorts of reporting dodges that, as the AP reports, “clouded the picture.”

Well, it looks like the forecast is for clearing skies over the obscuration of what is really happening in our schools. Of course, those clear skies will leave exposed all the damage from the storm of deceptive graduation and dropout reporting that has been raging across Kentucky and the rest of the country.

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