Improving high schools

Bush is making improving high schools a priority. That’s very difficult, in part because it’s so hard to measure. Arguably, high schools that focus on educating a particular type of student are more effective than schools that try to be all things for all students. But it’s impossible to compare the math-science academy with the second-chance school for drop-outs.

For you hard-core policy wonks, here are the president’s education proposals with more from Education Secretary Rod Paige.

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Comments

  1. Mike in Texas says:

    Its hard to take seriously comments from the man whose school district was caught cooking the books about high school dropout rates.

  2. So Bush personally directed that information be withheld from his district? Even if he didn’t, I guess it’s his fault.

  3. Rod Paige was superintendent in Houston, where several high schools failed to report drop-outs. This is a very common practice, and is one of the reasons it’s so hard to judge high schools’ effectiveness.

  4. What is a drop-out, anyway? I thought the high schools in those new stories had not bothered to track students who stopped showing up.

    Seriously – those of you who work in education, enlighten me. Are there state guidelines on what these terms mean, or does each district set its own standards? Various federal web resources are no help.

  5. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Obviously, it all depends on what “out” is.
    And perhaps what “drop” is, too.

  6. it’s almost always better to express things as graduation rate: diplomas granted compared to freshman enrollment 4 years earlier.

    While a district may claim som significant variance: moving, kids taking GREs, or kids taking more years… it shifts a burden of proof — requiring schools to undertake vital record keeping

  7. Using graduation rate could be deceptive as well: My district has a 20% annual growth rate, so a graduation rate of over 100% would be common. It would not, therefore, tell us much.

  8. Don’t make excuses for Rod Paige. Schools keep rigorous records of attendance and enrollment: This effects state funding, and there’s typically one court case every few years at each school which requires the teacher’s roll book to be entered into evidence to prove that a student was or was not in attendance at school.

    Texas had (has?) a long-standing culture of hiding poor performance through administrative sleight of hand: An example: Let’s say that there’s a test implemented in grade 7 that the school knows that a particular student will do poorly on: The student will be held back in grade 6 an extra year, then socially promoted to grade 8, avoiding his ever being tested (note that this nicely avoids the every student gets tested structures of NCLB, as well). At other times it was just straight-out lieing about what’s happening in the schools. Either way, the Texas education miracle is pretty well documented to have been a fraud.

  9. Well which one is it, Vito? Either schools keep rigorous records or they indulge in administrative sleight of hand. Doing one or the other I can understand but doing them both is just asking for trouble.

  10. I just adore how school teachers still pull out of their bag of tricks the “it’s-too-hard-to-measure” excuse whenever someone suggests any accountability in their jobs. After all these years it still sounds like a silly mantra to me, but apparently, it must continue to work for them.

  11. It disturbs me that more corruption isn’t attributed to managing measurements instead of people. But, I was pleased to see that NCLB actually caught schools that prevented some children from taking the test. Often these tended to be the upper income schools.

  12. I wonder if Einstein would have performed well using this process as the name implies. You can educate by measures using data driven assessment.
    http://www.einstruction.com/

  13. bluemount wrote:

    Often these tended to be the upper income schools.

    Any support for that assertion?

    I’d guess that there isn’t much correlation between income levels and tendency to cheat. More likely, the correlation is has more to do with performance on the test. After all, a school that’s going to ace the test doesn’t have anything to lose whether they have big or little budgets. But a lousy school has a lot to lose. Who has the greater reason to fudge?

  14. Many high schools don’t count students as drop-outs unless the student declares he or she is dropping out. Almost all are considered transfers to alternative programs, even if the student never enrolls or briefly attends a program that loses 90 percent of its students. Drop-outs are laundered through the alternative programs. Unless there are shifts in population in the area, graduation rates are the best indication of how many students are making it through to a standard diploma.

  15. Allen, There were a couple article in the NY Times that discuss NCLB and testing.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/05/education/05school.html

    >Many affluent communities where gaining entrance to elite colleges is nearly an obsession have been rattled by the law’s verdict on their schools, which can fall short if not enough students show up for a test or because mentally retarded students do not perform at grade level.

    In Darien, Hinsdale South missed one federal target based on low test scores by a handful of disabled students, and the school district, as required by law, sent letters to parents. Allen, There were a couple article in the NY Times that discuss NCLB and testing.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/05/education/05school.html

    >Many affluent communities where gaining entrance to elite colleges is nearly an obsession have been rattled by the law’s verdict on their schools, which can fall short if not enough students show up for a test or because mentally retarded students do not perform at grade level.

    In Darien, Hinsdale South missed one federal target based on low test scores by a handful of disabled students, and the school district, as required by law, sent letters to parents.

  16. Sorry Bluemount but the NYT is no longer an authoritative source. They spent too much of their credibility capital advocating for political causes and been caught out too many times.

    Besides, the NCLB is the same blunt instrument that all federal law, by nature, is. As the erosion of public faith in the public education system continues the pressure will be on to put the responsibility where it ought to be, with the parent. That will result in the NCLB, eventually, being superceded. But I don’t think the NEA will be happy about it.