Graduation rate hits 82.3%

Nationwide, the four-year high school graduation rate rose to 82.3 percent for the class of 2014, the U.S. Education Department reports. That’s up 1 percent from the previous year.

Gains were largest for lower-achieving groups, but gaps remain wide. While 89.4 percent of Asian-American students and 87.2 percent of whites earned a diploma in four years, only 76.3 percent of Hispanics and 72.5 percent of blacks did so.

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Four-year graduation rates topped 90 percent in Iowa and Nebraska with New Jersey and Wisconsin close behind.

In the District of Columbia, only 61 percent of students graduated on time. New Mexico and Nevada also were at the bottom of the list.

Graduation rates can be manipulated, as Anya Kamenetz writes on NPR. “The rising graduation rate reflects both genuine progress and some questionable strategies.” States are trying “early warning systems and increased support, to multiple diploma tracks, second chances, and in some cases apparent manipulation of statistics.

I’m very dubious about the use of credit-recovery programs to help students make up classes they’ve failed — often with little effort or learning.

Quick fixes for low grad rates


Why are graduation rates rising? In some places, quick — and dubious — fixes are responsible, reports NPR.

Many Chicago high schools mislabel departing students, for example.

They were saying they were moving out of town or going to private schools when, in reality, they were enrolling at the district’s alternative schools or, in some cases, GED programs.

. . . One school listed 120 students from the Class of 2013 as having left to be home-schooled.

Credit recovery programs, which let students earn credits after failing a class, are very, very popular — and usually not very demanding.

New Jersey requires students to take a graduation exam, but those who fail can take a second, much easier test, reports Sarah Gonzalez of WNYC. The untimed test has one question per subject.

Yet half the senior class in Camden, New Jersey failed the first and the second exam. Statewide, 1,400 students failed both exams last year, says Gonzalez.  Most graduated anyhow.

There’s an appeals process. And students can submit samples of work they did in class to the state. It can be a single, graded algebra problem or a persuasive essay with a teacher’s comments on it.

. . . The mandatory high school graduation exam just isn’t a barrier to graduation anymore.

Iowa has the nation’s highest high school graduation rate at 90 percent. NPR looks at an alternative high school in Des Moines that provides intensive support to get about half its low-income, low-motivation students to the finish line.

Graduation rates aren’t exactly accurate, but they are at an all-time high, according to Nathaniel Malkus at AEI.

Common Core no more

As Common Core controversy mounts, several states are renaming the education standards, reports Fox News.

Common Core is now  “The Iowa Core” in the Hawkeye State. In Florida, it’s “Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.”

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed an executive order to erase the name “Common Core.” Instead, officials will refer to “Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards.’’

Other states may follow suit. “We will probably do something really silly like changing the name of it to something else”to confuse opponents, said Louisiana Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans.

Iowa colleges focus on retraining, retention

Retraining adults for high-demand jobs and improving graduation rates are the priorities for Iowa community colleges. Half of enrollees earn a credential or transfer in three years. That’s better than most states, but Iowans think theycan do better.

States to watch in 2013

The education minded should keep an eye on Mississippi, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa in 2013, advises Dropout Nation. And from last year’s states to watch list, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey and Michigan will continue to be interesting.

On-time high school grad rate is 72%

Only 72 percent of students in the class of 2011 earned a diploma in four years, according to the U.S. Education Department.

Iowa had the highest graduation rate at 88 percent with Wisconsin and Vermont at 87 percent and Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas at 86 percent.

The District of Columbia’s four-year graduation rate was 59 percent, the lowest in the country, notes Dropout Nation. Only 60 percent of black, Latino, and Native American students graduated on time. In Nevada, the black on-time graduation rate was 43 percent, the worst in the nation. Montana and Texas are “the only states in which four out of every five black freshmen in their respective Classes of 20111 graduated on time.” Minnesota had the largest racial achievement gap with a 49 percent on-time graduation rate for blacks and 84 percent of whites

Nationwide, 79 percent of Asian-American students and 76 percent of non-Hispanic whites finished high school in four years.

If a student needs five years to earn a high school diploma — and really earns it — that’s OK by me. I worry that “portfolio review” and “credit recovery” scams will pump up graduation rates.

Talking ’bout education — or not

ED in ’08, which tried to get presidential candidates to discuss education issues was a “successful failure,” argues Alexander Russo. (Most people consider it a plain old failure.) Advocates learned what works — and doesn’t work — in the political arena, Russo writes.

I don’t think K-12 education will be a key issue in this campaign. Obama is focusing on subsidized college loans to appeal to middle-class voters. Romney’s going to focus on jobs, jobs, jobs.

Obama’s willingness to fund vouchers in Washington, D.C. — a deal has been struck with the Republicans — is interesting. Urban blacks, who are less enthusiastic about Obama this time around, support school choice.

The Education Department denied Iowa’s request for a No Child Left Behind waiver because the state hasn’t approved a statewide system for evaluating teachers.  Iowa is a battleground state. That’s politically gutsy, writes Mike Petrilli. Or foolish.

‘Tiger’ kids in community college

Chinese “tiger mothers,” who demand excellence from their children, are superior to Western moms, claims Amy Chua, a Yale law professor with two high-performing daughters.  More tiger children end up at community colleges than the Ivy League, writes a Pasadena Community College professor. And these kids are depressed by their failure to meet their parents’ unreasonable expectations. Some are suicidal.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Laid-off workers in Iowa are turning to community colleges for retraining, but wait lists are long for programs in health care, welding and other high-demand fields.

Iowa rejects independent charter schools

Iowa’s charter schools are run by school districts. It turns out they’re not very innovative,  reports the Des Moines Register. In essence, the state collected federal charter funding for a handful of magnet schools with no autonomy or ability to challenge the status quo.

Iowa schools, once rated the best in the nation, are slipping in national rankings.

In North Carolina, a top-scoring charter school that uses Direct Instruction wonders why the state seems uninterested in learning about their methods.

(Founder Baker) Mitchell said he feels the state is not really looking at the good things his school is doing, and he doesn’t know whether regular public schools are learning anything from the charter school.

Indeed, the state doesn’t keep track of innovations at charter schools and how they influence the public school system, said Jean Kruft , a consultant with the N.C. Office of Charter Schools.

Illinois will double the number of charter schools, including charters for five schools specializing in drop-outs.

Update: Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, spoke at the House Education and Labor Committee hearing on charter schools, reports Edspresso:

“I’m from the state of Ohio, so I think I look at things a little differently because most of our charter schools are not public charter schools. So, you may hear me coming from a very different vantage point.”

Of course, charters are public schools by definition. Fudge’s flub wasn’t the only one at the charter hearings.