It is interesting that yesterday’s new graduation rate is that it is based on two underlying assumptions:
1) students who graduate in four years are successful
2) those who don’t are failures
Research does not validate either premise. I am an educator who has spent years teaching in conventional and alternative high schools. Currently, I am working on my doctoral dissertation and the topic is on success within alternative education, so this issue of graduation rates and how they are calculated is important to me.
Each year in education, we learn how to accommodate different learning needs so that children can be successful. Usually we assume that “success” is based on whether a child is learning and progressing toward graduation; we know that children learn at various rates and so while we would like every third, fifth, eighth, or tenth grade student to reach a certain benchmark, the Oregon Department of Education adopted a “Student Growth Model” in 2009 that is much more realistic. It looks at students as individuals and monitors their progress.
This new way of calculating graduation rates – proposed by the federal government and endorsed by our state – is in direct conflict with the Student Growth Model. It no longer looks at students as individuals. Instead, it defines a successful high school student very narrowly – as one who graduates within four years. I would argue that this definition is inaccurate and may potentially be harmful.
By lumping together the students who take longer to graduate, who get a GED or modified diploma, or alternative certificate into the category “non-graduate,” we are doing a great disservice to our children. We equate them and their efforts to students who drop out completely and never finish. Having a high school education is very important; graduating from high school accords an individual with a certain amount of respect. By categorizing 34% of students as “non-graduates” we are telling that portion of the population that they are failures. This is tragic. Our definition of “successful student” needs to change. We can begin that change by demanding a graduation rate that accurately reflects the reality within our schools – more than 66% of students complete high school.
posted 2 years, 12 months ago
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