The Case of the Inflated Graduation Rates

| 8/5/2009 1:18:55 PM

Inaccurate Graduation Rates

The Hartford Advocate wants to know: What happened to New Haven, Connecticut’s 800 missing high school students? Four years ago, the city enrolled a freshman class of 1,796—this past June, only about 1,000 graduated. The state can’t fully explain the disparity because it doesn’t yet have a system in place to track students during their educational careers; if you drop out, you disappear.

Better student tracking is coming next year, but the stats nonetheless put an “antiquated formula” for calculating high school graduation rates in stark relief. If all of the missing students dropped out, then New Haven’s 2009 graduation rate is about 55 percent, reports the Advocate. That’s “a far cry from the mid-70s New Haven has been reporting to the state for the past few years.”

But this isn’t just Connecticut’s problem. Four years ago, all 50 states made a pact to update how they measure graduation rates—the new system requires counting 9th-graders and keeping tabs on how many earn diplomas. Only a third have made good on the pledge. Connecticut is not one of them: It currently counts students who spend more than four years completing high school or earn their GED, but doesn’t account for students who drop out or leave for another school without giving official notice. “In other words,” the Advocate writes, “it’s not very accurate.”

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