October 10, 2008

NCLB: Dreaming the Impossible

To the average person on the street, "graduation rate" means the number of high school seniors who actually receive their diplomas; e.g., 200 seniors, 200 diplomas, equals 100 percent; or 200 seniors, 150 diplomas, equals 75 percent.

However, to the bean counters under No Child Left Behind, calculating the graduation rate is not that simple. They use a formula based on the number of graduates with a regular diploma, the number of "dropouts," the number of graduates with a special- education diploma, and the number of graduates with a certificate of attendance; e.g., 2008 graduates, 2005 9th grade dropouts, 2006 10th grade dropouts, 2007 11th grade dropouts, 2008 12th grade dropouts, 2008 special education diplomas, and 2008 certificates of attendance.

The definition of "dropout" is a student who starts but does not complete the school year. Common sense says there is no high school that will not have any students who do not complete the school year, let alone for four years in a row. That means that under NCLB, no school can achieve a 100 percent graduation rate.

This is especially true in Augusta-Richmond County, when you are dealing with a constantly changing military population. So I have to question how there are two schools credited with a 100 percent graduation rate. I also have to question why the graduation rate was recomputed after the retests, since NCLB is looking at the graduation of students in the normal four-year time frame, and retests were given after the school year ended.

Barry Doick


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