Disputing Methodology Used in Diplomas Count

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To the Editor:

While Education Week's effort to track the U.S. high school graduation rate is laudable, the authors of Diplomas Count 2010 (June 10, 2010) continue to understate the number of students who graduate from high school each year—particularly the number of minority students.

In 2008, I partnered with economist and Nobel Prize winner James J. Heckman and two other experts on high school graduation rates, Paul A. LaFontaine and Joydeep Roy, to issue a statement that called the Diplomas Count graduation-rate estimates “exceedingly inaccurate,” and that highlighted the flaws in the report’s methodology ("Reaction to Diplomas Count 2008," edweek.org, June 24, 2008).

Two years later, Education Week is still using the same methodology, which doesn’t fully take into account students who repeat grades, and therefore overstates the high school dropout rate.

I strongly encourage the authors of this year’s study to revise its methodology for future studies. High school graduation rates provide us with critical information about the state of American education, but this information is useless if we can’t count on its accuracy.

Lawrence Mishel
Economic Policy Institute
Washington, D.C.

Vol. 29, Issue 36, Page 32

Published in Print: July 14, 2010, as Disputing Methodology Used in Diplomas Count
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