Monday, June 2, 2014

Why Graduation Rates are Suspect

On May 2nd the National Assessment of Education Progress published the 2013 results of the 2013 Mathematics and English tests for High School seniors. The test has not been given to seniors since 2009 and the hope was that the tests would show significant improvement. Alas, the test results were essentially unchanged since the last time the test was administered.

However, at the same time that student performance remained unchanged against a reliable benchmark, graduation rates reached the highest ever! That presents an obvious conundrum. If all other factors have remained the same, how can graduation rates increase if student performance is unchanged? The "educrats" have postulated all manner of reasons. 

I would like to suggest "gun decking" as the most probable cause. "Gun decking" is an old Navy term that refers to changing data after the fact to reflect a more desirable outcome. In many schools there is a process called "credit recovery". Credit recovery allows a student to take a failed course online with minimal supervision and accountability. Credit recovery allows a student to take multiple choice tests multiple times until he or she attains a passing grade. Most teachers I have spoken to have a very dim view of credit recovery. Some will go so far as to call it a joke. In order to participate in credit recovery, a student has to have achieved at least a 50% grade in the failed class. The real problem is that in many schools, teachers are not allowed to assign a student a grade any lower than 50%. Thus a student is incentivized to do nothing throughout the school year knowing full well that credit recovery will rescue them. Is it any wonder that students show up in subsequent classes unprepared or that most students reporting to college require at least one year of remediation before they can begin a post secondary course of study. They have learned little more than how to keep choosing multiple choice answers until they get it right!

If you have a student in K-12, you should be concerned as to whether this practice is prevalent in your children's schools. Even if your child is doing well, fairness would seem to dictate that the grading process have integrity.

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