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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Grades and grad rates rise, and that's not good news

Grades are up! Graduation rates are rising! But that's not good news. Test scores are down, across the country, writes Hechinger's Jill Barshay. Attendance is down. So are post-pandemic students' ambitions. Unprepared academically and not in the habit of doing work or showing up, fewer students will earn college degrees, analysts predict.


A March 2023 report by the D.C. Policy Center details the decline in attendance and academic success in District of Columbia Public Schools. The graduation rate rose to a record 75 percent, up from 68 percent in 2018-19, but fewer graduates are enrolled in postsecondary education.


Only eight out of every 100 D.C. ninth graders will go on to earn a postsecondary credential, the report predicts. That's down from 14 out of every 100 ninth graders before the pandemic.


It's not just Washington, D.C., Morgan Polikoff, an associate professor of education at USC, told Barshay. “The trends in D.C. are true everywhere — attendance is way down, grades are up, high school graduation is slightly up, college enrollment is down.”


Parents don't realize their children's futures are at risk, writes Barshay, noting that parents aren’t signing their children up for free tutoring. "Who can blame them when their children’s grades are strong and their children are on track to graduate?"


Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone, warns of a lost generation. "I feel like I just need to stand on a mountaintop and just yell, 'Take this seriously! Everything is at stake right now!'," he told CBS News.


New York is lowering standards on state reading and math tests so more students will be labeled "proficient," writes Dale Chu. "This in a state where kids lost enormous ground, and where things are probably worse than reported due to the large number of students who did not sit for the state exams."


U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, in a "platitude-heavy speech" earlier this year, called for "raising the bar" and "setting higher standards for academic success in reading and mathematics," notes Chu. Cardona said standardized tests should serve as “a flashlight on what works and what needs our attention.”


But honesty hurts. "We’re really lousy at 'catching kids up' en masse if they’ve fallen significantly behind," writes Chu. "Consequently, to solve for low proficiency rates, the path of least resistance is to make exams easier to pass — creating a false impression of success, much as already happens with high school graduation rates."


7 Comments


Guest
Apr 05, 2023

It’s like an alarm bell in a home for the hearing impaired, Joanne Up here, the system is impenetrable and student performance data is either brushed aside or released selectively No one is home when questions are posed cutting to the heart of the matter. (Paul W Bennett, author, The State of the System ( MQUP, 2020)

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Guest
Apr 03, 2023

This nation is headed for extinction within the next 30-40 years as future generations will NOT have the skills needed to compete with AI (a recent study shows that 80% of jobs may be impacted by AI to the point that people may not be able to earn a living).


The school system is in my opinion beyond repair

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Guest
Apr 05, 2023
Replying to

Yes, we must hasten to destroy it, so that something better can take its place as soon as possible.

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Guest
Apr 03, 2023

This is deliberate, per the admin here. The argument is that the academic norm should be set for the student of average ability, and no one should get more than the minimum req'd for the Regents Advanced Diploma on the taxpayer's dime. What used to be 11th and 12th is now found only in community college in the nonwealthy/nonTitle 1 districts, and is pay to play in my state....if a high schooler can even get a seat while being lowest priority for coursework. Lots of families decamp for Florida virtual.

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Guest
Apr 03, 2023

The prediction that there will be fewer BAs and higher assumes that there won't be similar grade inflation at the college level. Of course there will be!


Ann in L.A.

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Guest
Apr 03, 2023

"Carthago delenda est" To modernize Cato: The public school system must be destroyed.

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Apr 03, 2023
Replying to

The public high school system must be destroyed: an American high school diploma is only considered to be at the level of the General Certificate of Secondary Education, which is ordinarily achieved at the end of tenth grade, in the many sovereign states that use the GCSE system internationally; so to access stable standards, Americans should withdraw their children from their federalized state school systems after ninth, and enrol most of them in vocational education & training, normally for technical careers, insofar as they can find such programmes locally, while a minority (which may be as low as ten per cent in D.C.) should apply to private high colleges like One World High College of Mathematics & Sciences.

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