If you’re baffled by the way public education gauges its successes, you’re not alone. This week, Lee Jacobs, an instructional specialist with Dothan City Schools, told school board members that the local school system has an 88 percent graduation rate, but added that almost all of its students leave school with a high school diploma.
That naturally raises questions, and makes one wonder if public education has become more like other organized youth-oriented events, like those that follow the concept that “everyone’s a winner” by handing out trophies and award ribbons simply for participating.
Fortunately not. Jacobs explains that the graduation rate measures the percentage of students who graduate “on time,” meaning students who complete the ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th grades in four years. Those who take an extra semester or year aren’t counted, although they graduate with a high school diploma, only outside the four-year window. Those students account for half of the 12 percent deficiency in the graduation rate. But it means that 94 percent of students in Dothan City Schools graduate with a high school diploma. Another 4 percent remains in school, 1 percent does not show up. The remaining 1 percent accounts for actual dropouts.
Ideally, every student who enters high school will work hard to achieve and graduate with a diploma. It’s difficult to succeed in life without that basic foundation. However, it’s unrealistic to expect that would happen under the best circumstances.
A scenario in which more than 9 out of 10 students graduate with a diploma while most everyone else remains in school is remarkable, and reveals a far more accurate view of the state of public education.
Jacobs deserves commendation for deciphering the mumbo-jumbo for those not steeped in the lexicon of education administration.