Some WA State School Districts Exaggerating Graduation Rates

Is this where we're at now?  We use data to stretch the truth, manhandle it, or, as KUOW puts it, "exaggerate?"  Apparently so because former Renton superintendent, Mary Alice Heuschel, has been telling a really stretched bit of data.  Heuschel is now the Governor's Chief of Staff.

She claims Renton had a 94% graduation rate. Except they didn't.  From the KUOW report:

It's also extremely inaccurate: Renton’s actual five-year graduation rate that year was 79 percent. Only 78 percent of Renton students graduated on time, within four years. The 94 percent rate Renton claimed was merely the district’s estimated five-year graduation rate.

"Estimated five-year rate? "  What's up with that?

Again, from KUOW:

Until recently, the state gave districts a lot of leeway in how they tallied student enrollment. That allowed for some creative accounting. 

For instance, a struggling 18-year-old might be counted as a 10th grader for the third year in a row, rather than a 12th grader who failed to graduate. 

Special education students and English language learners who spent seven years in high school could be counted as on-time graduates. 

Furthermore, the complicated formula for estimating each high school's graduation rate was based on its dropout rate in earlier grades. The formula failed to take into account whether a school held credit-deficient students back a grade. 

Now new federal guidelines require states to count graduation rates the same way, by tracking a cohort of students from ninth grade through graduation day four years later.

The state has been publishing both the old and new graduation rates for several years. That has allowed districts to publicize the more flattering rate – in Renton’s case, a difference of 15 percentage points last year. 

OSPI says using the new formula, the Washington State estimated graduation rate (5-year) was 83% and the actual was 79%. 


seattle citizen said…
Hi, Melissa! Might check the title of your post :)

On a related note, there's this piece that describes UNDER-reporting of graduation rates in Georgia, leaving out certain groups of student. "

Blackmon: State's 'dropout' numbers misleading

"....Special-education students and certificate-of-attendance recipients accounted for about 6 percent of the students who finished school last year. Yet those 5,682 young people are dropouts, based on the method the U.S. Department of Education requires for calculating the dropout rate. That’s just plain wrong.

And that’s not all. Graduation rate calculations don’t include students who switched schools or who moved out of state and are simply no longer in their cohort at graduation time.

In considering Georgia’s 67 percent graduation rate, we jump to the erroneous assumption that the others dropped out. Even major media outlets make that mistake.

The real danger in counting this way is that the inaccurate assumptions become the basis for education policy decisions, budgeting and school effectiveness ratings at both the local and state level. I haven’t figured out how to calculate that impact, but since we require that metrics drive all decisions now — forget common sense or direct experience — it is bound to have an effect over time.

If, in working on the graduation rate, we are making decisions based on flawed formulas, it’s probably safe to assume that we are using bad data in other areas as well.

For example, much has been written about the problems with using CRCT scores to measure academic progress. Some of the testing companies have paid huge fines for poor test construction and slow processing. Yet we continue to use those numbers in making education-related decisions.

The same is true for a one-size-fits-all, take-no-prisoners calculation of dropout rates. We can’t solve real problems if we don’t understand the real situation. We can’t improve our graduation rate if we don’t even understand how it’s calculated.

As citizens, we must demand accurate assessment of real issues, not oversimplified federally dictated calculations that devalue much of what we are doing well..."
mirmac1 said…
My lukewarm support of Inslee was reaffirmed when he decided to appoint the truth-challenged Hueschel as his Chief of Staff. When it came to Teach for America, Mary Alice was quick to embrace whatever she thought would advance her image. Did she EVER inquire whether it would truly help the students in her district? NO. But, boy, she was on top of PR damage control when the Renton Reporter delved into her district's move to sign onto the Stritikus/TFA weinernaut.

Interestingly, her district failed to follow the WAC when it came to actually getting board approval of applications for conditional certification. Gee, another example of a school board asleep at the switch and a less than honest superintendent making hay on their lack of attention.
LL said…

Where are checks and balances? Self-reporting should never be allowed. Fox watching the henhouse is not a good idea. We don't let students grade their own SAT score, why are adults exempt from this basic practice?

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