Jul 28 2009
When is the last time you’ve attended a High School graduation? Last month I had the pleasure of celebrating the academic achievements of Seattle’s 2009 high school graduates. It was an incredible experience! Superintendent Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson, Ph. D., and I spoke at or attended several high school commencements, including Ingraham High School and Garfield High School. I participated in Roosevelt High School’s rehearsal exercise and attended O’Dea’s commencement services at St. James Cathedral.
We are living in a time when less than 7 in 10 American students graduate from high school in four years. Our Council was recently briefed on the graduation rates of the Seattle School District and what was very interesting is how, using the exact same data and representative class, the graduation rate significantly changed depending on the methodology used to track it. For example, in looking at Washington State’s graduation rates for 2006, the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) deduces the graduation rate to be 48.6%. At the same time, the National Governors Association Compact’s rate was 52.9%, and the Cumulative Promotion Index (Ed Week/Swanson) rate was 62.6%. However, the Manhattan Institute’s (Jay Greene) rate for this class was 74.4% and that is the rate most commonly used. According to Mary Beth Celio from Northwest Decision Resources, her study concluded there was a 66.5% graduation rate. Again, these rates are based on the same graduating class of 2006. What is critical about Mary Beth Celio’s presentation is that it is possible to identify the warning indicators and tipping points for failing students. Race, gender and free or reduced lunch status can only predict 11% of future dropouts. What are more indicative factors are middle school unexcused absences, early “F” grades, and whether they enter Seattle Public Schools as late entries. By using these early indicators, we should be able to significantly improve our intervention strategies.