Guest blog: Steven Baule, Superintendent of the Muncie Community Schools in Muncie, Indiana:
Earlier this week, President Obama announced that the US High School graduation rate has reached a new record high at 83%. In response to this claim, National Public Radio put out a graphic news item called “The Truth about America’s Graduation Rate.” High school graduation seems like a fairly clear cut issue. However, there are many ways to count graduates. Some states used to only credit graduates to schools with those students took four years to finish. Others do not consider five year graduation rates as part of the norm. WBHM identifies drop out recovery as a “questionable” factor in higher rates as well. Online credit recovery options are viewed less than positively by this Detroit-based radio article. Removing students who leave school from the calculation is another method of pushing rates up. This Texas NPR story explains how students are “removed” from the count. Indiana and Michigan has a similar exemption for those students who are going to be “home schooled." The Houston Chronicle provides a similar article as well.
Alternative diplomas and alternative schools are becoming more common with less rigorous standards than traditional graduation requirements in order to help schools and state drive graduation rates higher. The National Center for Learning Disabilities provides information for parents on how to avoid an alternative diploma for their children. The NEA is supportive of such alternative or modified diploma graduates being included within graduations rates, which varies by state.
One of the best ways to improve the traditional graduation rate according to NPR is to intervene at the preschool level in order to address high school graduation rates as in their Oregon example. The PEW Trust research supports pre-school intervention as well. The National Center for Educational Statistics has a great deal of data on graduation rates available for review.
The short answer is the 83% high school graduation rate is correct--sort of.