Wednesday, January 13, 2016
What Does The 70% Graduation Rate Really Mean?
With great fanfare and little scrutiny, the DOE reported that for the first time he City students reached the 70% graduation rate level. If you read the newspapers that means the education reform that started with Michael Bloomberg and continues with Bill de Blasio is working. However, let's dig deeper and see why the graduation rate is increasing every year?
First, lets look at the good. The increased amount of transfer schools that opened in the last decade for over aged and under credited students (must be 16 years old) was a real godsend and students that would have normally dropped out are given a second chance to graduate. These schools offer a tri-semester year, allowing students to get additional credits and graduate with a diploma rather than get a GED or no diploma at all. I have been to these schools and while the majority of the students will stop coming and eventually drop out, a good many of the remaining students accumulated real classroom credits and graduate.
Now the bad, as many teachers will tell you, far too many students are being given credit for courses they had no business passing but do anyway. For example despite the DOE claiming that starting in 2012 the credit recovery programs will be more rigorous and that seat time must be part of the credit recovery determination, the truth is far different. Most schools require online courses (APEX) and the students can take the test as many times as necessary to pass the course or have a smart peer to take it for them.
Furthermore, since the school's "Quality Review" is a function of the graduation rate, reported violations, and student suspensions, the new breed of Principal (20% from the Leadership Academy) cares more about their statistics then real academic achievement and will pressure teachers to pass students by going over their class passing rate (scholarship)'. Combine that with the greater percentage of untenured teachers being hired and who are unwilling to fail students because it would piss off the Principal, the result is an artificial improvement in the graduation rate.
Finally, the lax student discipline code means less reported violations and suspensions along with greater teacher accountability. For example, if little Johnny fails his tests, is regularly late to class, does little or no homework, and does not complete assignments, the teacher must document everything and show the outreach he or she did. If you can't prove you did this, you better pass Johnny or face the consequences. Just read the Pissed Off blog and read about the massive remedial (no credit) courses these students take at her Community College and how many drop out.
Bill de Blasio and Carmen Farina may crow about the 70% graduation rate but we teachers in the trenches know better.