Friday, March 21, 2008

I'm Shocked! Shocked!

To paraphrase the immortal words of Casablanca’s Captain Renault, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that fudging the graduation rates is going on here!”

The New York Times has reported the “shocking” news that many states are inflating their graduation rates for reporting under NCLB and even keeping two different sets of statistics, one federal and one for home state use. These discrepancies run as high as 23.7 percentage points in Mississippi, but even our own Empire State shows an 11.7 percentage point difference, and Connecticut’s is an almost equal 11.3 points. The article goes on to speak about the politicization of graduation rates under NCLB and how this leads school districts toward pushout policies that increase dropouts while simultaneously boosting the apparent success rates.

This story recalled the DOE’s persistent use of their 60% graduation rate figure for NYC schools (see, for example, "NYC graduation rates; still pretty dismal"), contrasted with the State’s 50% figure. A quick check of the DOE’s own Statistical Summaries webpage shows the following data for three recent student cohorts:

---------------------------------------Pct. Of Grade 9
2002-2003 Grade 09 ---- 94,648
2003-2004 Grade 10 ---- 77,945 ------- 82.4%
2004-2005 Grade 11 ---- 50,859 ------- 53.7
2005-2006 Grade 12 ---- 43,711 ------- 46.2

2003-2004 Grade 09 ---- 97,875
2004-2005 Grade 10 ---- 79,663 ------- 81.4%
2005-2006 Grade 11 ---- 51,281 ------- 52.4
2006-2007 Grade 12 ---- 45,786 ------- 46.8

2004-2005 Grade 09 ---- 99,721
2005-2006 Grade 10 ---- 81,256 ------- 81.5%
2006-2007 Grade 11 ---- 54,468 ------- 54.6
2007-2008 Grade 12 ---- 49,518 ------- 49.7

In all three cohorts, the Grade 12 register is less than 50% the size of the same cohort in Grade 9, and that assumes an unlikely 100% of those Grade 12 students will be graduating. One can only imagine the sequence of flaming hoops the DOE has to jump through to turn any of these figures into 60%.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for showing how simple these numbers really are.

And for aggregating the whole city. Let them chop the numbers into little tiny pieces and they get hard to read.


Anonymous said...

Actually, as a high school teacher I can tell you that most students who ultimately drop out of school are retained in grades 9/10 (often more than once) before dropping out. So that would go a long way to accounting for the discrepancy you're seeing between 9th and 12th grade enrollment. And most of the kids who make it to twelfth grade are in good shape to graduate, though some might have taken more than four years to get there.

Leonie Haimson said...

It's even worse than that. While NYC claims 60% for its 4 year grad rate, NY State reports NYC's graduation rate at 50% -- but this figure is still inflated since it doesn't count discharged students -- which also accounts for NY State's inflated claims for the state as a whole.

I believe the data you cite here is the gen-ed population alone -- not the segregated special ed population, which is not included by DOE in the regular grade cohorts and thus if included would bring down the grad rate even lower.