College & Workforce Readiness

Poll Finds Americans Overestimate the Grad Rate Problem

By Catherine Gewertz — August 31, 2009 1 min read
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You think the public needs to be convinced that there is a high school graduation crisis? Maybe not, according to a new poll.

A study published today in Education Next finds that Americans estimate that only two-thirds of high school freshmen graduate four years later, lower than most national estimates (The Editorial Projects in Education Research Center estimates the figure at 69 percent).

The study’s main focus is on how researched-based information and President Obama’s positions can influence Americans’ views on key education issues. (See additional takes on this in blogs here and here.)

The researchers asked their subjects two high school-related questions: their estimate of the graduation rate, and of 15-year-olds’ performance on PISA. On both counts, Americans were closer to being accurate than on such issues as how much teachers earn. Which might explain why the grades they assigned to U.S. schools didn’t change that much once they were told the correct answers to those questions.

But it is sadly intriguing to hear Americans’ dark take on the graduation-rate problem. Sad because they have good cause to see it so darkly, and sad because even that recognition hasn’t catalyzed enough momentum to change it in any widespread, systematic way.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School Connections blog.