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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Rising graduation rates may be a lie

Rising graduation rates may be a lie, writes Mark Dynarski on Brookings’ site.

In 2010-11, when schools first adopted the same formula for calculating on-time graduation rates, 79 percent of high school students graduated in four years nationwide, he writes. The rate is now 83 percent.

“Increases in the graduation rate have been followed by reports about states, districts, and schools playing games with numbers that made their graduation rates higher,” Dynarski writes.

. . . the country has an implicit two-zone approach for high school graduation. Students in the first zone attend school, pass classes, get credits, and are given diplomas. Students in the second zone don’t attend school, fail classes, don’t have enough credits, and are given diplomas.

America’s post-war high school graduation rate was stable for four decades. “After it became part of an accountability structure,” it began rising, writes Dynarski. He finds that suspicious.

The entire rise may be a product of misreporting of graduates and widespread use of dubious credit-recovery programs, he writes. In fact, the true, un-fudged graduation rate may be falling.

New York required all students to pass Regents exams, then created so many exceptions that nobody understands the rules, writes Monica Disare on Chalkbeat.

At one end of the spectrum, some wonder if New York should follow the 37 other states that have already eliminated exit exams amid growing evidence that they don’t prepare students for life after high school. A different camp, though, thinks the state should double down on the basic graduation framework, sticking to exams and high standards as states like Massachusetts have done.

Lowering cut scores — 30 percent is a passing score on the algebra Regents exam — sends “a false signal about readiness,” says David Steiner, the former New York state education commissioner. Consequences include college failure and student loan debt

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