High School Graduation Rates Up Again
Look, look see the superintendent celebrating and parading through the high school with banners and pompoms. See the New Orleans style dance the superintendent did as he extolled long awaited gains in the high school’s graduation rate. How really wonderful is that!!
The Prince George’s County DuVal high school’s graduation rate had gone from an above average of 81 percent to a celestial 95.4 percent. Is that not wonderful and worthy of so much celebration?! “We have made remarkable progress.” said the superintendent.
How high they fly; how far they fall. Soon the Governor ordered the State Department of Education to hire investigators and soon after that the thrill of achievement was filled with the fog of doubt. There had been cheating. Staff were told to do what you need to do to get kids to graduate. Whatever you do, staff were told, just find a way to make them pass. So students who barely attended school found themselves with passing grades. Other kids were “helped” to learn what was needed to pass the tests. In the end, 3 counselors were removed from their jobs, an assistant principal resigned and the principal retired. The superintendent, Maxwell, decided to resign as well; he did his snake dance right out the door. Even members of the school board came to physical blows over the amount of buy-out the Maxwell should receive. Really, I am not making this up. The situation might also have brought down the county executive who lost his bid for higher office after he continuously supported the superintendent he had hired in spite of the developing scandal.
Nationally graduation rates have been climbing since 2011. Federal law expects states to set sky-high graduation rates and targets. But are the schools and students really doing any better? Is the rush to higher graduation rates ensuring that the weaker willed will succumb to changing exam grades to ensure passage, ignoring excessive absences and providing tutoring that looks a lot like cheating.
The problem turned out to be much larger than just one high school. Overall there were 5500 grade changes and 30% of the county’s graduating class lacked proof to show they qualified for graduation. The virus seemed to have impacted the entire county system.
With all of this happening, why has the question never been asked- What’s the big rush to get kids out of high school in four years? What makes four years the magic number in which every kid needs to complete high school? Wouldn’t it make much more sense to set goals that related to skill sets and that kids would graduate when they reached those goals? We would have more graduates ready for employment and fewer college freshmen taking zero credit make-up courses.
But graduation rates are up again. We are all happy. Will someone PLEASE ask why does that matter.