Spinning Graduation Rates: Legerdemain Will Not Create Better Schools

The just released America’s Promise Alliance High School Drop Out Report is both depressing and  sharply questions Tweed spin.  The Report places New York as 43rd out of 50 metropolitan school districts with a graduation rate of 45.2% … twenty points below the Klein figures …
I sat with a principal as he interviewed a young man … who was wandering through the halls. He was almost eighteen, had earned few credits and passed only two Regents exams … he was proud of his red “do-rag,” and verbally jousted with the principal. He had no interest in going to class.
Where will he be in a few months? On the streets? incarcerated?
Transfer schools either have no seats or are wary who they accept. The GED Plus admissions process is cumbersome … for this kid the future is bleak.
Schools are “under the gun,” rather than offering alternative programs to find a path to graduation the Department uses the club … the threat of bad “grades” and school closings. Principals are increasingly looking to some method, any method of improving “data.”
In their last Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) the Supervisor’s Union (CSA) linked the evaluation of principals directly to the School Progress Report grade. Principals/Schools are now measured by the NCLB rubric at the State level and the Report Card grade at the City level.
In the elementary schools the grade is based on the annual State ELA and Math exams, while in the high schools the grade depends on graduation rates that are driven by student credit accumulation and passing Regents examinations.
At a recent Fordham University forum, Sol Stern, a resident scholar at the Manhattan Institute sharply criticized the Department School Report Card, to the applause of an audience made up of principals.
Once upon a time if a kid failed a course s/he went to summer school and repeated the class, although summer school had abysmal passing rates.
Viola! Credit Recovery.
The State Ed (SED) folks set the requirements for graduation: forty-four credits in specific areas and five Regents exams (English, Math, Science, 2 Social Studies). The SED says 54 hours of instruction equals one credit.
Here’s the deal … if a kid fails a course but has “sat” for the class, so the theory goes, s/he has met the 54 hour requirement. So, in lieu of repeating the class, if the kid successfully completes a standards-based project, the principal will reverse the grade to a passing grade.
In the old Board of Education days the high school division issued memoranda … one required schools to establish a Course Accreditation Committee, made of the principal, or designee, UFT Chapter Leader, counselor and relevant assistant principal. All new courses, including credit recovery had to be vetted by the Committee.
Under the current regime no one monitors anything – the old aphorism, “if it doesn’t involve a live boy or a dead girl” – it’s ok.
Creating schools that are described by the State Ed Department as “dumping grounds” is grotesque. We need an integrated model, schools that serve the needs of all kids, schools that are both closely monitored and supported by the Department … not set adrift and threatened with closing.
The current market-driven model is a disaster for the neediest … and the faster the legislature acts to bring sanity to education, the faster we can return to supporting and nurturing kids.
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One response to “Spinning Graduation Rates: Legerdemain Will Not Create Better Schools

  1. perchance2dream

    Peter:

    You mean to say someone besides the usual Internet band of Civil Disobedients has finally noted that the sham that is being touted as the biggest, most successful school reform ever is not? The lie is so big and so entrenched in the media now that it will take more than one report to knock it down. Meantime I cannot be the only one suspecting that Klein is paving his way to the U.S Secretary of Education post under a Democratic administration. Exactly what we need! The Business Secretary of Education!
    Maybe the Buffet money can fund this exciting new vision applied to all 50 states.

    Like

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