Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Standardizing graduation rates

The National Governors Association meeting wraps up today. Education has been a major topic of discussion at the meeting. The big news was the decision by 45 states to standardize their reporting of high school drop out rates. The New York Times had an article about the decision. So did the Washington Post. NYT reports that the new chairman of the NGA, Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee believes current state-to-state comparisons of high school graduation rates an’t useful. He likened the current way of comparing rates to “ranking one basketball team shooting at an 8-foot-high basket against another shooting at a 10-foot-high basket.” “'We should all be shooting at a 10-foot basket,’ Mr. Huckabee said. ‘This will give us the ability to honestly know how well we are doing compared to other states.’” In other words, the solution isn't to lower standards. The Washington Post writes, “Education experts say a key predictor of whether students eventually will graduate from college is not race or economic circumstances but whether they completed a rigorous course of study in high school.” “At the governors’ winter meeting… Microsoft Corp.'s Bill Gates declared U.S. high schools ‘obsolete’ and challenged the governors to help change them. Last week, the NGA announced that 10 states, including Virginia, will receive as much as $2 million each to implement plans to raise graduation rates and improve high school curricula. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will underwrite the financing.” Note: Louisiana was selected as one of the ten states receiving these special funds. See my post from yesterday for Louisiana links to the announcement. See also the Gates Foundation announcement of the awards.