Graduation rates may change
States across the nation may see a dip in their graduation rates after the feds require all states to use a uniform calculation to report their rates. U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced this morning that she will take steps to ensure that all states use the same formula.
Speaking at a conference in Washington, D.C., she said that in some districts, students who leave school but pledge to get their GED are counted as graduates. In other districts a student has to register as a dropout to be counted.
Just as much of an issue is that until recently, there has been no way to really keep track of students who move from one school district to another, even within the same state. As I say in my story in today's paper, the state launched a new effort this fall to keep closer track of students by having schools give every student an identification number, but the process will not be complete until 2011.
Spellings believes that by making reporting of graduation and drop out rates more uniform, schools will be held more accountable.
She wasn't specific in suggesting how this new rule would be calculated, which is crucial, but one suggestion has been to look at who enters a school in ninth grade and who gets a diploma four years later.
That number will make things look worse for some urban school systems where many students take five years to graduate from high school because they are so far behind academically that they may have to take remedial classes.
In 2005, 50 governors signed a pact agreeing to create the uniform identification number. Across the nation, about half of African-Americans are believed to have graduated from high school, a rate that is considered unacceptable.
There is debate within the state about how many students are graduating from city high schools. Some say it is as few as a third, while others say it is as high as 60 percent. The numbers are essentially all guesses, that vary depending on what formula is used.
The fact is that no one will really know until about 2011.