A new Grad Nation Report is out that praises an all time high graduation rate of 82.3% while warning that we still have issues that need resolution. Although the numbers of high schools with low graduation rates has been declining (ESSA defines a low graduation rate high school as a school with one hundred or more students and a graduation rate of 67% or less) recent data shows that 52% of low graduation rate high schools are either charter, virtual or alternative schools.
Many of our superintendents have raised concerns over ineffective non-district managed charters and virtual schools that siphon both students and public dollars away from the public school systems only to have those students return to the system years later in need of significant remediation. The 52% statistic mentioned above is proof of that. In many states policy makers are persuaded by private entities to pass enabling legislature that allows parents to send their children to charter schools and virtual schools and have the tuition paid by public dollars coming from the school district’s tax base. Institutions that receive public dollars must be held to the same accountability measures as our public schools and when they fail they must be subject to the same penalties as the public institutions.
The Grad Nation Report also mentions differences in the graduation rates when additional years beyond the four come into play. At five years the graduation rate is 3% higher and at six years it goes up 4%. You have to wonder why we continue to be so enamored with framing achievement within rigid time frames, discounting the fact that we know that all children do not learn at the same rate at the same time. Why is it so important that a student graduate high school in four years as opposed to five or six, or three or two? There is an increasing number of students today that are graduating high school with an Associates Degree or a full year of college credits. Why must we insist on restricting students to unrealistic time frames? Should not the goal be to have students graduate, period?
An increasing number of school systems are moving to personalize education and allow students to learn at their own pace, making achievement the goal, not time on task. Let’s begin to celebrate our students’ achievements regardless of how long it takes for them to get there.