Federal Federal File

Accountability Still a Grad-Rate Issue

By David J. Hoff — October 27, 2008 1 min read
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The Department of Education soon will publish new regulations that require states to improve the way they calculate high school graduation rates and report them to the public.

But those rules won’t solve some of the biggest problems with the way states hold schools and districts accountable for increasing their graduation rates under the No Child Left Behind Act, according to a new report.

“There’s a real concern that once the rule comes out, people are going to say: ‘OK, we’ve got the grad-rate thing taken care of,’?” said Daria L. Hall, the assistant director for K-12 policy at the Education Trust, the Washington nonprofit group that released “Counting on Graduation” last week.

Under rules proposed in April for the Title I program under the NCLB law, the Education Department would require states to adopt a uniform method of calculating graduation rates and schools and districts to report their graduation rates for students in racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, as well as for students with disabilities and English-language learners. The proposal would require schools to make “continuous and sustantial improvement” in their rates. (“Plan Would Add New Rules,” April 30, 2008.)

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has said she expects the final rules to be published by October.

Although the Education Trust supports the department’s proposed rules, its report reminds state officials that they should ensure that schools and districts are held accountable for increasing the proportion of students who graduate.

Ms. Hall, whose group is one of the nclb law’s strongest advocates, said adding those words would be an improvement over loopholes that have allowed states to set goals to increase their graduation rates by as little as 0.1 percentage point a year.

“What we haven’t said is what’s good enough for improvement,” Ms. Hall said. “We need to set meaningful expectations.”

Making sure that those expectations are ambitious is the responsibility of governors, state board of education members, and chief state school officers, says the Education Trust report.

A version of this article appeared in the October 29, 2008 edition of Education Week

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