Education Week’s “Curriculum Matters Blog” ran an article as I was leaving for a conference last week about “NCLB Waivers Could Undermine Graduation Rates, Group Contends.”
The Alliance for Excellent Education in Washington, DC claims that if the graduation rate requirement in NCLB is set aside, that Kentucky’s own graduation rate accountability plan would only count this important school statistic for 14 percent of the overall score for each school.
Under current NCLB rules, graduation rates are a separate accountability item that schools must meet to make overall Adequate Yearly Progress. This is treated as a separate, stand-alone requirement and is not diluted in importance by being averaged with other accountability measures such as test scores. The Alliance specifically cites Kentucky for reducing the importance of graduation too much in its waiver request.
Per Education Week, Alliance President Bob Wise, the former governor of West Virginia, said:
“If test scores in earlier grades or other indicators count far more for measuring a school’s progress than whether a student actually graduates, the fact that high school graduation rates count for so little in the proposed indexes could create an incentive for schools to ‘push out’ low-performing students in order to increase scores on standardized tests.”
It is uncertain how much influence the Alliance will have with the US Department of Education, but their concerns are definitely worth considering.
Certainly, there is widespread, bipartisan agreement that the current graduation rate in Kentucky is too low. Both Governor Beshear and his wife have mentioned such concerns repeatedly in their requests to change the minimum high school dropout age.