Thursday, May 25, 2006

Dropout Data Raise Questions on 2 Fronts et al

Dropout Data Raise Questions on 2 Fronts - Washington Post

Counting Diplomas and 9th-Graders - Washington Post

Tracking Students Over Time Using Surveys - Washington Post

A Clearer Picture Of Who Graduates - Washington Post

If we think things are confusing now, regarding the number of high school diplomas being handed out, just wait until the full impact of high school exit exams hits. These exams, partly the results of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and new state initiatives, are going to give new and better indicators of exactly what a high school diploma is worth, across the country.

California is currently in a battle for making the exit test, introduced since 1999, part of the requirement for graduation. While the state-to-state requirements may differ slightly, in California graduates must pass an 8th grade math, and 10th grade English exam. Given the years that schools have had to prepare for the requirement, it comes as no surprise that judgment day has, or nearly, arrived in many states.

It seems fair to expect students to pass these minimum requirements, even though civil attorneys are arguing just this point. However, it is painful to hear proponent educators say that the exit exams are part of helping kids go to college. Might they be speaking of Burger King U?

If going to college represents the ‘ceiling’ of high school attainment, reflected in Advanced Placement curriculums (AP), these exit exams are the ‘floor’, with the ultimate goal hopefully being to bring the two of them together. This togetherness will take more than the current efforts. The inevitable racial disparities in exam results, which we already see in California, will eventually become news nationwide.

The question of the drivers of the disparity will get more attention and focus, as it should. This attention will stop the behavior of simply passing kids on regardless of readiness, and letting the marketplace tell us the magnitude of their limited skill sets. This testing is a hopeful start, but we should not think it mitigates the full set of performance challenges. More accurately, it spotlights critical, but known, issues around current minimum results in educating our children.

James C. Collier


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