Sunday, November 16, 2014

Can we please stop talking about "graduation rates" as if they're meaningful?

In the Journal this morning, link, a report on the "gender gap" in academics.  The gap has been measured in terms of "graduation rates" and "reading proficiency".

The measurement of reading proficiency is more or less scientific.  In start contrast, graduation rates vary simply by redefining the terms.

For example; It was recently decided that graduation rates would be calculated based on five years rather than four.  The effect is; graduation rates climbed, but for no valid reason.

And another; APS recently decided that when they established "cohorts"; the groups of students they would track for their graduation rate calculations, they would not include in the cohort, and 9th graders who had already failed the 9th grade at least once. 

In plain language, they took a 9th grade class with (let's say) 1,000 students and then four years later graduated 540.  Instead of dividing 540 by 1000; a graduation rate of 54%, they divided by (let's say) 900 students who had not already failed.  Their graduation rate is now 60%; about 11% higher.

Graduation rates climbed again, but again, for no valid reason.

So please, let's stop acting as if gradation rates are valid measures of success.

Suppose there is a gender gap.  So what?

It only makes a difference if one arbitrary established group (males) performs differently than another group (females), if the "gap" is significant AND if you intend to close the gap with "group fix".

Somebody is going to make a lot of money and accumulate a lot of power selling a group fix solution that will make all males better readers.

It will fail of course, for exactly the same reason that every plan to make all students better readers has failed; there is no group fix for individual deficiencies.

You can't take groups of 30 kids with little in common but their age and expect them to learn in unison.

The expression is "herding kittens".
Even if you could, why would you want to?

There is only one education gap we must pay attention to;
the gap between where an individual student is and
where that individual student could be with our help.

All education gaps are individual.  There is no meaningful remediation that does not need to be individually applied.

photo Mark Bralley


JD Robertson said...

Are GEDs' figured into the graduation rate?

ched macquigg said...

I really don't know. It also begs a question on how many years you can take to earn one.