The way California calculates high school graduation rates masks a dropout crisis of epic proportions.It's disturbing that there isn't a uniform way to calculate graduation rates. The most logical way would be to compare the number graduating with those entering as freshmen minus those who move from the state. You'd think that the California people would want to know the true situation so that they can have a baseline to work on improvements. But that would be naive, wouldn't it? Better to play with the numbers than address the real problem.
The 2002 graduation rate of 87 percent that California reported to the federal Department of Education actually was 71 percent. And the picture is more drastic among the state's African-American and Latino students.
Those are the findings of a study authored by the Harvard Civil Rights Project and the Urban Institute, based in Washington D.C. Overall, California's numbers are on par with the national averages.
....Graduation rates are a key part of school accountability under 2001's federal No Child Left Behind legislation, but "accounting tricks" have masked the problem in California and several other states, Orfield said.
Orfield and his team reached the lower rates by comparing the number of entering freshmen with the number of students who graduated four years later. California and some other states instead divide the number of graduating students by graduates plus estimated numbers of dropouts. In that system, a no-show simply evaporates from the rolls.
"In San Francisco, there are many ways to not be counted as a dropout," Orfield said. "In some states, you can get sent to jail and be counted as a 'transfer.'"
"Students who drop out do not file forms," researchers at San Francisco's WestEd wrote in a report that reached similar conclusions last year. "Most simply stop showing up, often leaving their status as an open question."
WestEd researchers used four different methods to calculate graduation rates, including dropout, straight enrollment and the multiyear enrollment approach favored by the Urban Institute and Harvard. These methods all reached similar rates, while the states' dropout method yielded graduation rates 18 to 19 percent higher.
Yet even the highest rates were unacceptably low for African-American and Latino students.
"No matter how you count it, it's devastating," said Gretchen Anderson, WestEd director of special projects.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
It sounds like California has found a way to disguise their dismal graduation rates.
Posted by Betsy Newmark at 1:32 PM