Gaming graduation goals

Why does No Child Left Behind require 100 percent proficiency by 2008? Why not let states set their own goals? Because they’ll cheat, writes Kevin Carey on The Quick and the Ed, citing Education Trust’s report on states’ graduation goals. With the freedom to set a goal and a trajectory for improvement, many states have set the bar very, very low.

Welcome to the state of Nevada, where all manner of sins are legal and the statewide high school graduation rate goal is 50 percent. In other words, as long as your odds of graduating are better than what you get when you slap down $20 on red at the roulette wheel, you’re doing fine. Alaska chose 55.58%, because apparently 56% even was just too heavy a cross to bear. And so on.

Other states have been a little more clever. Instead of setting the bar at knee height, they adopt a putatively high bar but give schools centuries to get there. Maryland, for example, theoretically has a 90% graduation rate goal. But it will accept any improvement as sufficient progress, even 0.01%. At that rate, the state’s African-American students will all be graduating by the year 3117, by which time we’ll all be cursing in Mandarin Serenity-style and learning will take place via coaxial cables jammed into the back of your head.

Impossibly high goals will be ignored, Carey writes. But “realistic” goals won’t push schools to change.

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  1. Mark Roulo says:

    Charles Murray has pointed out the problem that the department’s of education face.

    Collectively, we are calling for “higher standards” as well as more students reaching those standards. But … if you want 95% of the students to pass some standardized test, you *MUST* put the pass-line at the 5th percentile. This is math, not ideology.

    The problem then becomes that the people who are *really* into this subject (and who tend to be in the upper quartile academically) look at the pass-line and complain about how low it is.

    You can make things more academically rigorous by raising the pass-line (maybe to the 50% mark?), but then more students won’t clear it.

    -Mark Roulo


  1. […] we are shocked — shocked, I tell you — to find (through this post) that some many of the states are (in Joanne Jacobs’ words), “gaming” high […]