Baltimore's graduation rate: A tale of two cities
An interesting debate took place on the opinion pages of The Sun recently.
A teacher who taught at Western High School--one of the city's historic flagship high school--for 22 years, wrote a scathing analysis of the city's climbing graduation rate, and exposed a practice that could have inflated those numbers in recent years.
Paul Evans, who recently retired after teaching in the district for a total of 31 years, explained how Western administrators were instructed by North Avenue to reduce the number of students on the school's list who shouldn't graduate. Evans claims that in recent years, city school officials would kick back the list of 20-25 and Western would, "dutifully pare the list down to an "acceptable level" by allowing many unworthy students to graduate." The school would ultimately submit seven or eight, Evans wrote.
Evans was compelled to write in response to another letter to the editor, where authors of a recently released national report, "Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic, 2010-2011 Annual Report," sang the praises of Baltimore's improved graduation rate--the same praises that we've referenced in several stories in the months after the city announced its 66 percent graduation rate last year.
These authors concluded in their letter that, "with the lives of young Americans and the country's future place in the world at stake, the hopeful tale of Baltimore City's educational progress serves as a challenge to other communities."
However, Evans said that as a result of graduating students out of the system, city students have become less serious and are not held responsible for their futures.
He wrote that the city's graduation practices, "also demonstrates why the increase in graduation rates has not resulted in higher SAT scores, nor has it increased the readiness level of Baltimore City graduates for college-level work. It also explains why the large majority of high school graduates in the city still must take remedial courses, in English and especially math, in their first year of college. " (Inspired by the same report, a professor at a local community college later wrote in to comment on the topic.)
Evans concluded: "The city, and especially the students, deserve better. The bar truly needs to be raised."
So whose account do you believe? Do Baltimore's graduation numbers tell the story of a district that is graduating students who are prepared to compete in the world? Or a district that is graduating enough students to compete with other districts in national reports?