Zero drop-outs, 30% graduation rate

Zero drop-outs, 30% graduation rate
High school drop-out rates are the most dubious numbers in education: It’s so easy to pretend that drop-outs are transfers. Houston’s award-winning school system is under fire for undercounting drop-outs, reports the New York Times.

One high school reported a zero percent drop-out rate. Sharpstown High’s assistant principal, Robert Kimball, warned Principal Carol Wichmann that the school’s stats were inaccurate.

“We go from 1,000 Freshman to less than 300 Seniors with no dropouts,” Dr. Kimball wrote. “Amazing!”

Sharpstown’s staff received cash bonuses for the school’s performance, based on test scores, attendance and drop-out rates.

Texas is going to substitute graduation rates, which will make it much harder to play games with the numbers. Many of Houston’s high schools will see their ratings plummet from best to worst.

The story’s other charge — that bad pupils are forced out to boost test scores — is thin. The example is an 18-year-old sophomore who’d stopped coming to school. Not surprisingly, he was dropped from the enrollment. (He was listed as a transfer to a school he didn’t attend either.) If he’d been kept on the roll and allowed to take state exams, does anyone think this no-show would have earned a diploma?

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