Sunday, June 29, 2008

States move toward uniform graduation rate reporting

This from USA Today:

SEATTLE (AP) — Comparing graduation rates from one state to the next or even one school to another can be as difficult as trying to help your children with their math homework: everyone has their own way of coming up with an answer.

That challenge is expected to go away within the next five years, but not without more pain, aggravation and money.

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced in April proposed new rules that would require states to assign each student a unique ID number to facilitate tracking from the time a student enters 9th grade until he graduates or drops out of school.

Spellings' call — which mirrors an agreement from the National Governors Association — will force every district to face up to the reality of a more scientific graduation rate, and quit hiding behind more positive estimates.

Washington state assigned a unique ID to every student four years ago, so this year's senior class will be the first with four years of data, so the 2008 graduation rate will be based on the method Spellings wants to mandate for all states.

State officials don't know if the new method will help or hurt Washington's steady 70% on-time graduation rate, said Joe Willhoft, director of assessment for the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

But, Willhoft adds, the point of the effort is to come up with a number that tells the truth...

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