Cheating on graduation rates

Black and Hispanic students have only a 50-50 chance of earning a high school diploma, says a report by the Harvard Civil Rights Project and the Urban Institute. The report blames the Department of Education for letting states fudge graduation rates and set “soft” improvement targets. It implies that educators have to cheat to meet the goals of No Child Left Behind.

The feds do need to get tougher on evaluating graduation rates, says Kati Haycock of the Education Trust. But the problem is too little accountability, not too much.

. . . any suggestion that high school dropouts are somehow caused by accountability is absolutely incorrect. Indeed, to suggest that accountability forces educators to harm children actually rewards irresponsibility and bad behavior. Worse still, it lets educators and the education system off the hook.

Make no mistake, this is about adult choices — professional and ethical choices. When professionals in other fields act in bad faith, no one calls for less accountability. In fact, they often call for more.

. . . Choosing to break the rules and take actions that harm children is just that: a choice. When we explain away such choices with euphemisms like “forced” or “unintended consequence,” we excuse educators from their professional and ethical obligations. We send a message to our nation’s young people that irresponsibility will be met with impunity. That is simply unacceptable.

Very well said.

Long before NCLB, states have played games with drop-out rates, hiding the large number of young people who never formally drop out but never earn a high school diploma either. It’s time to get serious.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Walter Wallis says:

    Stop doing thinks that don’t work.
    Don’t take on new obligations until old ones are fulfilled.
    Become professionals.

  2. PJ/Maryland says:

    I like the way Congress gets credit for taking a first step with the NCLB, but we blame the DOE for not writing stricter regulations. Did these guys not get the memo that the NCLB is an evil plot of the Bush administration?

  3. I think one of the issues is that a student dropping out is always defined as a failure of the system. Is it ever ok for a kid to drop out of high school?

  4. Andy Freeman says:

    > Is it ever ok for a kid to drop out of high school?

    Yes.

    Is it ever the fault of the public schools when a kid drops out?

  5. Partly. It’s also partly the kid’s fault.

  6. The kids who look likely to drop out are also the ones who would do well being placed in some sort of apprenticeship system.

  7. Albert Shanker says:

    I thought everything wrong in education was the parent’s fault. Today I heard a radio ad that said if I could name a professional athlete but hadn’t been in my child’s class room in the last month I was part of the problem.

  8. Jim Thomason says:

    “The kids who look likely to drop out are also the ones who would do well being placed in some sort of apprenticeship system.”

    Well, it worked for Ben Franklin!

  9. “The kids who look likely to drop out are also the ones who would do well being placed in some sort of apprenticeship system.”

    Some of them are. I suspect most of them are the ones that aren’t going to do well anywhere – the ones who think they are entitled to everything without working for it. There’s only one educational program that even has a chance with that type. Boot camp.

  10. Ken Summers says:

    Um, forgive my ignorance but how does one “formally” drop out?

  11. PJ/Maryland says:

    Today I heard a radio ad that said if I could name a professional athlete but hadn’t been in my child’s class room in the last month I was part of the problem.

    So it’s okay to avoid visiting your kid’s school if you don’t watch sports??? Or maybe they just don’t want sports-ignorant parents to visit?

  12. I like the point about how anywhere else this sort of thing happened, people would call for standards to be tightened, not loosened. I can imagine the disbeleif that would result if Ken Lay called for looser accounting regulations in order to avoid future Enrons.

  13. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘Black and Hispanic students have only a 50-50 chance of earning a high school diploma, says a report by the Harvard Civil Rights Project and the Urban Institute.’

    They have a 100% chance of earning a high school diploma but only 50% of them succesfully fulfill that opportunity.

  14. Some schools only count a student as a drop-out if the student announces he’s dropping out. If the kid claims he’s going to sign up for an alternative program or independent study — most don’t sign up or quickly give up — then he’s not a drop-out.

  15. In Nevada, a kid is perfectly free to drop out of school at the age of 16 (honest). While the school can attempt to get the kid back in the classroom, he or she doesn’t have to, if they don’t want to. We had the same report in our local newspaper about the graduation rates among hispanics and blacks (pretty much mirrors the nation report mentioned by Joanne).

    An easy way to stop this problem is if local businesses would not hire students unless they could provide absolute proof they had completed high school, were enrolled in high school (and making acceptable grades), etc.

    If local businesses were to start doing this, I suspect that they would find a LOT more kids finishing up high school, and making an effort to complete the work, ASAP.

    I don’t think this will happen in my lifetime, however.

  16. “An easy way to stop this problem is if local businesses would not hire students unless they could provide absolute proof they had completed high school, were enrolled in high school (and making acceptable grades), etc.”

    And why on Earth would we want them to do that?

    If a high school education really isn’t needed to do a particular job, why deny that job to someone that’s perfectly capable of doing it?

    We’re already seeing problems with businesses demanding college degrees for work that doesn’t really require college level knowledge. Let’s not add to it.

    “If local businesses were to start doing this, I suspect that they would find a LOT more kids finishing up high school, and making an effort to complete the work, ASAP.”

    So what? That doesn’t make it right. Local businesses should freely hire the people that have the skills they need, and not have to turn them away and make them jump through extra hoops and get irrelevant qualifications.

  17. If it is always bad for a kid to drop out, then schools will try to make their dropout rates look low. I don’t think it is always a bad thing when a kid drops out and gets their GED. Some kids just don’t tolerate school well, and they need to move on to something healthier. We need a honorable way for kids to do this.

  18. Even better, let’s beef up the GED and make it more difficult to pass. Then people can get one and it’ll be worth something in the marketplace.

    If we can get to the point where the GED is worth more than a regular high school diploma, and there’s no age limit to take it, we’ll be in really good shape.

  19. That might do it, Ken. Make it tough test and attach some cachet to it.

  20. Ken,

    Your statement:

    “We’re already seeing problems with businesses demanding college degrees for work that doesn’t really require college level knowledge. Let’s not add to it.”

    The reason why this is happening is that business needs to hire persons with college degrees in order to get the knowledge that high school students graduated with 20-50 years ago.

    According to the Nat’l Academy of Scholars (think tank type group), a study done recently showed that the general knowledge level of college graduates is no better than high school graduates of the late 50’s and early 60’s.

    Of course, back then, you didn’t have all the self-esteem malarky, feel-good mantra, grade inflation, and lack of discipline in kids that you have today.

    I know several business owners who hire both college and high school graduates (I can tell you for a fact that they aren’t very impressed with what is being produced these days).

  21. …..”If a high school education really isn’t needed to do a particular job, why deny that job to someone that’s perfectly capable of doing it?

    We’re already seeing problems with businesses demanding college degrees for work that doesn’t really require college level knowledge. Let’s not add to it”….

    Ken … better to be overqualified than underqualified for a job … it’s called supply and demand … if there are more people applying for jobs than there are jobs … and you’re hiring … all things being equal except education … who do you hire? Someone whose worked a little harder to improve themselves or some slacker… if it’s your business and you want it to be successful, it’s a no-brainer.

    I’m not saying that it’s the local businesses job to keep high school dropout rates low, but some of these kids need a wake up call .. How about a high school or trade school diploma in exchange for a driver’s license … how’s that for motivation … the lack of which is one of the major causes for the dropout rate.