April 3, 2008

A dozen questions for an official graduation rate

When the OMB clears the draft regs on counting dropouts, we can expect another wave of stories on graduation rates and what they all mean. Sharp reporters and other observers will ask the following questions of the draft regs:

  1. Does the definition of graduation include or exclude non-standard completion categories such as GEDs and "certificates of completion"?
  2. How does the definition of graduation handle students with disabilities with a modified curriculum (that is, with an emphasis on functional rather than academic goals)?
  3. Is the mandatory measure a longitudinal statistic such as the NGA compact or a synthetic measure such as Chris Swanson's Cumulative Proportion Index? (I will assume until proven wrong that it is a longitudinal measure.)
  4. Regardless of the measure proposed, how many states have data systems that can produce the statistics required?
  5. How does the measure address transfers, homeschooling, migration, and mortality?
  6. For the adjustments proposed for transfers, homeschooling, migration, and mortality, are there any requirements that states audit the corresponding codes in their data systems?
  7. How does the proposed measure handle grade retention (e.g., multiple years in ninth grade)?
  8. Does the proposed measure forbid a state from using the Florida tactic of calling a dropout a transfer if the dropout immediately enrolled in a GED program?
  9. How does the proposed measure handle students who graduate in five years?
  10. Do the proposed regs require that school districts and schools must meet benchmarks in graduation in the same way that they must meet benchmarks with % 'proficient'?
  11. If there are such required benchmarks, is there any supporting research to suggest that the status or improvement benchmarks are realistic?
  12. In crafting the draft regs, did the Department of Education consult with more than two of the researchers recognized to have published in the relevant area, such as Chris Swanson, Rob Warren, Melissa Roderick, Russell Rumberger, Bob Hauser, Michelle Fine, or Gary Orfield? I'm an historian, and we're generally trotted out as mantel decorations for such affairs, if at all, but there are plenty of solid researchers in the area who could be consulted. And if you're a reporter, you need to line up a few of those folks to be ready to respond to draft regs.
I'm exhausted from a third straight fragmented day, looking forward to a fourth one... but I suspect the above set of questions covers much of the ground on the anticipated raft regs defining an official graduation rate.

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Posted in Accountability Frankenstein on April 3, 2008 10:12 PM |