Thursday, June 17, 2010

Graduation rates increasing? or smoke and mirrors?

State and local (APS) graduation rates are increasing, link.
Or are they?

Recent changes in the manner in which graduation rates are calculated, raise the rates independently of any actual change in graduation rates.

Take for example, the APS. They have decided to drop from their cohort (the group of kids who start the 9th grade together and who are then tracked through graduation), those students who fail the 9th grade on their first attempt, link.

By dropping from the cohort, the students least likely to graduate, the graduation rate statistic is improved though nothing has really changed.

The NM Public Education Department is using a similar mathematical machination to improve graduation rates statewide; they have decided to adopt a five year cohort in order to include students who graduate in five years instead of four. Again, the graduation rates they report go up, when in fact, actual graduation rates could have actually gone down.

Whether these approaches are appropriate is debatable. A number of students need an extra year to graduate due to circumstances far beyond their control, so that approach seems at least reasonable. However, if NM gives students five years while other states afford them four years, comparisons state to state lose validity. Comparison becomes meaningless, truly apples and oranges, though that hasn't stopped them from continuing to point to "improving" comparison statistics anyway.

APS' decision to drop the least likely to graduate from their cohort is considerably less justifiable. It appears to be nothing more than an effort to hoodwink stakeholders into believing that they are doing a better job of meeting student needs, when in fact, they are not.


Anonymous said...

West Mesa High Makes Newsweek's 'Best' List

Wasted Mesa? So this too is smoke and mirrors. Thanks for the great take on the education game.

ched macquigg said...

and thank you for you kind attention

Anonymous said...

I knew someone on the honor roll at WM, who is now struggling at her new APS HS. It makes me wonder if WM has the watered down version of academics.