High school graduation rates

Education Week’s June 10, 2010 issue is devoted to the issue of high school graduation rates in the United States. Fascinating stuff.

One of the things that you can see with the power of data analysis is that the U.S. high school graduation rate (measured using the “Cumulative Promotion Index,” which is a product of the completion rates for 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades) is lower than its been in decades. And, not surprisingly, the graduation rates for White and Asian students is much higher than for Hispanic, Black and American Indian students.

The largest two districts in the country (New York City DOE and Los Angeles USD) have the largest number of non-completers. But while NYCDOE has roughly 257,000 high school students compared to LAUSD’s 162,000 high school students, both districts have roughly the same number of nongraduates (43,000 and 42,000 nongraduates). LAUSD is one of the worst districts in the country in terms of students not completing high school.

This year I’ve repeatedly experienced that strange disconnect you get when you alternate between the macroscopic and microscopic views of the same issue. All of these numbers are informative and they tell a story. That story makes you think of the students around you who are the ones who are making up those statistics–each of them has a story too.

One very hard-working student that I know (but not in my classes) is not graduating because her mother is refusing to provide child-care for her while she finishes high school. And remember that student who  wrote the nice card for me a few weeks ago? He hasn’t been to school since then and he’ll probably not finish the 9th grade as a result. He is in this country illegally and I wonder if something happened to him.

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