Graduating to Oblivion: In the Knowledge Economy Basic High School Graduation Reguirements Are Inadequate, “Bling” versus Physics


 ‘After all, facts are facts, and although we may quote one to another with a chuckle the words of the Wise Statesman, “Lies – damn lies – and statistics,” still there are some easy figures the simplest must understand, and the astutest cannot wriggle out of.’
Leonard Henry Courtney (1832-1918)
One of the measures of school success, or failure, are high school graduation rates. The problem: States set their own graduation requirements and their own methodology to determine graduation rates. The National Governors Association is attempting to gain agreement that States will use a uniform definition of graduation rates.
In a Report entitled,  Implementing Graduation Counts: State Progress to Date 2008 the Association writes:

In 2005, governors of all 50 states signed the NGA Graduation Counts Compact to implement voluntarily a common formula for calculating their state’s high school graduation rate. The NGA Compact contained four key commitments:

  • to use a common, four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate formula;
  • to build state data collection and reporting capacity;
  • to develop additional student outcome indicators; and
  • to report annually on their progress toward meeting these commitments.
By 2012 the NSA predicts that all States will have completed their commitments.
The NYS Education Department has just released preliminary data on the 2003 graduation cohort. The major newspapers all reported on the release of the data, the NY Times, the NY Post and the NY Sun, all report the “up tick” in graduations. Rates have increased all over the State, the increase in New York City is at a faster rate, however, minority students and students with disabilities lag badly.
The DOE press conference, with power point and big screen has become the standard operating procedure. Understand that the DOE held a press conference to claim credit for the rising of the sun … Diane Ravitch and Sol Stern reminded Tweed that the sun has been rising for billions of millennia, Tweed communications director Cantor, responding, “While this may be so it does not reduce the role of the Children First Initiative.”
Elizabeth Green, in the NY Sun, writes:
An education professor at Brooklyn College, David Bloomfield, said the gains in graduation rates may be artificially inflated by principals trying to raise their figures, which are tied to prizes such as higher report card grades and salary bonuses.

Mr. Bloomfield named two practices that he called “gimmicks”: local diplomas, which are being phased out by the state but now allow students to graduate with lower scores on Regents exams, and credit recovery programs, which allow students to earn credits from classes they failed by completing last-minute makeup work.

The state’s education commissioner, Richard Mills, yesterday said he and Mr. Klein are instructing their staffs to study the credit recovery system after holding a meeting to discuss it last week.

From my perspective I proffer three reasons for the increase:

* Better Technology: You must give credit to this administration for the ease in accessing student data. Every school, with a few mouse clicks, can view cohort data as well as records for each and every student. The cohort “rules” are complex and require management by a school, i.e., kids entering during the school year may, or, may not have been in the NYC school system … did the bureaucrats enter the data correctly? is the kid in the “correct” cohort? Are kids who leave schools “good” discharges (to another school) or  “bad” discharges (dropouts)? Schools can now track all this datum on a granular, student by student level.

* Guidance Counselor/Student Ratios: Many of the small high schools have manageable GC/Student ratios … instead of 300 to 400 students per counselor it is not uncommon to have 100-200 ratios. The counselor is the key person – constant contact with students, ability to motivate, to seek the right placements, development those surrogate parent relationships that are so vital to our kids.

* Credit Recovery: Under, I can only whisper the words, the Board of Education, each high school was required to maintain a Course Accreditation Committee, including the UFT Chapter Leader; all “new” courses had to be approved by the Committee, and memorialized in the Superintendent’s office. For example a school might have a two-day camping trip to make up for a phys ed credit. In the regency of Tweed Credit Recovery is totally unsupervised, in fact, there are absolutely no records. If a student earns a Credit Recovery credit the school reverses the failing grade … there is no indication on the record how the credit was earned. In some instances, like the Hallway Project students have met the seat time requirement but failed the course, complete a teacher supervised, standards based project, a responsible approach.  In others credits are freely distributed in a blatant, disgraceful manner, with a “wink and a nod” from Tweed.

Yes, an increasing graduation rate should be applauded, but, the local diploma, a grade of 55 on four of the five required Regents exams, is bare literacy. Even the Regents diploma, passing five Regents exams with grades of 65 or better is barely proficient. The CUNY College Readiness Rubric is the equivalent of the advanced diploma – eight Regents exams, with at least one advanced math class. How many kids graduate with an advanced diploma? Three or four percent?

In spite of the yeoman efforts of teachers, guidance counselors and principals we are settling for bare literacy in a world that requires highly advanced skills. The Klein rubric, the Education Equality Project is the wrong approach … using fear of school closings, denial of tenure and teacher pay for performance as a motivation tool is blaming schools for the failings of a larger society. The Broader, Bolder Coalition acknowledges that schools are part of communities, and, unless we address the school within its community we are spinning our wheels.

It may sound trite but as long as role models are athletes, entertainers and celebs our kids will look for “bling,” not math and physics.


One response to “Graduating to Oblivion: In the Knowledge Economy Basic High School Graduation Reguirements Are Inadequate, “Bling” versus Physics

  1. Hi. I read a few of your other posts and wanted to know if you would be interested in exchanging blogroll links?


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