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.