The State of New Jersey recently released new graduation rate statistics required by NCLB. The government, both state and federal, focus on statistics and reports that tell us nothing about the success of the American school system.
The new graduation rate is lower than past rates. Cynics may use these new statistics to criticize “failing” schools and teachers (never students or families) without understanding that the new rules guarantee everyone lower rates. School programs do not cause the new lower rates. The lower rates come from silly bureaucratic rules.
All districts will show artificially low graduation rates based on factors they do not control. The new system for determining graduation rates negatively affects urban districts with higher mobility rates more. School districts must document transferring students' destinations. A student may move out of state. Students may leave without notifying the school. The district is now responsible for documenting where they go. This is not always possible. Students without documentation are considered non graduating.
This may not appear important but urban districts have much higher mobility rates than districts like Barnegat. Lakewood is the district in Ocean County closest to an urban district. I created a presentation comparing the potential effect to the graduation rate of Lakewood and an average New Jersey district. I used the last three years' mobility rate ( the number of students leaving and entering the district) assuming both districts could not document 15% of those leaving.
The analysis show a district like Lakewood may show a graduation rate of 94% resulting only from the lack of documentation. The average state district shows a 97.2% graduation rate under the same circumstances. This is a loss of 6% and 2.8% respectively. These losses are due to issues districts have no control over. It is often impossible for a district to document students destinations. Every school throughout the state will see their graduation rate decline.
The naysayers will call this further proof of a failing public school system. Yet the decline is not due to anything the school district controls. Districts throughout the state will now pour money into tracking students that should be spent in the classroom. The government may intrude further into our personal freedoms developing tracking tools to meet a meaningless statistic telling us nothing of the strength of a school district's programs.
Why is this statistic important? It really says more of the student and the family than it does the school district. The school district has the responsibility of providing an effective education program that is relevant. It is the responsibility of the student, with family support, to take advantage of this. The best program does not help a student who is not present or does not follow it. The schools are expected to be the mother, father and conscious of the student but they cannot be.
The school system is like a home. They both lay a foundation on which a person may build a life. The person building the home is no more responsible for the purchaser's use of it than the school is for the students use of it. Assuming the home is built properly the builder is not responsible for the maintenance of the home. The same is with the school A school district providing an effective program is not responsible for those not using it.
We, as a society, lost the concept of personal responsibility. Everything, but ourselves, are to blame for our failures. The whole idea of Barnegat being responsible for getting a student into another school when they leave the district is ridiculous. This is the responsibility of the students' parents or guardians. The failure of the student, or child, to attend school is not the failure of the school district left but of the family the student left with.
The nanny state mentality generating these statistics will do nothing to enhance education and much to hinder it.