High school graduation rates at a record high: Critics question methods

By Andrew Pillow

High school graduation has long been one of the standards that people use to measure academic achievement. People who use that as their main metric are likely excited by the news that the U.S. high school graduation rate has reached an all-time high of 83%.

The achievement gaps still persist; however, they have narrowed across the board.  

Not everyone sees the record rate as a sign of improving educational outcomes. Other metrics that measure academic achievement have remained relatively stagnant. A fact which leads some observers to question exactly how the graduation rates were raised.

NPR explains:

“As we've reported, the rising graduation rate reflects genuine progress, such as closing high schools termed "dropout factories," but also questionable strategies by states and localities to increase their numbers.
"For many students, a high school diploma is not a passport to opportunity, it's a ticket to nowhere," says Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, a national nonprofit that's long advocated for higher standards and graduation requirements.
Cohen points out that roughly half of states now offer multiple diplomas. Some of those credentials are rigorous, some aren't. "You don't know how many students who were in that graduation rate actually completed a rigorous course of study. We're not transparent about that. We're concealing a problem."
In many places, the high school graduation exam is also a low bar, Cohen says, while some states have dropped it altogether.”

It is worth noting that Indiana also has a graduation track with multiple options. Some of which critics claim don’t actually prepare students for the next steps in life.

Read more here. (NPR)

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.