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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Fudging graduation and now college-going rates

Federal education law encourage schools to fudge graduation rates, writes Laura Jimenez, director of standards and accountability for the Center for American Progress, on The 74.

Image result for ballou graduation

The scandal at Ballou High in Washington, D.C., which gave diplomas to students who’d failed their courses, is not unique, Jimenez writes. Investigations “in ChicagoFloridaLos AngelesPrince George’s County in Maryland, and Texas all point to a much more widespread pattern of fudging numbers, dumbing down courses, transferring high-risk students to alternative schools, or graduating students who aren’t ready.”

No Child Left Behind created a “gotcha” accountability system that encouraged cheating, she writes. NCLB’s replacement, the Every Student Succeeds Act, requires districts to report college-enrollment rates in addition to graduation rates. That “provides an incentive” to push students to open-enrollment colleges, where they’re likely to fail.

Jimenez calls for investing in early warning systems that show which students need extra help to get on track.

Also, we need to continue investing in long-term data by increasing usability, training staff, validating the information, and reporting statistics in a way that is easy to read and access. These data should be linked to outcomes that occur later in life, like college enrollment, persistence, graduation, and, eventually, employment in a high-demand, high-wage career.

Teachers across the country told NPR their schools lower standards to inflate graduation numbers.

A Chicago teacher complained attendance figures are “altered” and teachers aren’t allowed to fail students. “IF you dare fail anyone there better be mounds of paper work and they better not be a senior.”

Students are getting decent grades and a diploma for sitting in their seats, wrote Fatema Dariana Keenan on Facebook. Graduates “couldn’t read or fill out a job application.”

“Credit recovery is a total joke,” wrote a Cheynne teacher. “We have also endured pressure to pass kids that didn’t earn it, and have excessive absences, give 50% instead of zeros, and take make up work up until the last minute.”

In Shelby County, Tennessee, an investigation of grade changing has spread to eight high schools. Teachers across the district complain they’re pressured to pass failing students.

As a first-year teacher, Connisha Wilkes was told by her principal her grades were too low. “I was advised to change my Fs… to D’s, and the D’s needed to be changed to C’s,” she said. While she was considering it, the grades were raised.

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