High School Graduation Rates Are Wrong. But Here’s How We Can Fix Them.

Statistics can be deceiving.

Officially, high school graduation rates are at an all-time high. In the past five years, graduation rates have steadily climbed, and between 2014 and 2015, 83 percent of high school students graduated on time

However, a study from NPR found that these statistics can be deceiving. While, in some circumstances, districts have stepped in early to keep kids on track, unofficially, high school graduation rates have also been padded by districts lowering the bar for faltering students and moving students who are seen as likely to fail off the books. 

"You don't know how many students who were in that graduation rate actually completed a rigorous course of study," Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, a national education nonprofit, told NPR. "We're not transparent about that. We're concealing a problem."

Uncovering the problem, of course, increases our chances of fixing it.

Experts from around the country weighed in on how to actually measure whether or not students are succeeding and offered advice. Find the seven steps they outlined for how to make the graduation rate better below.

1. Be transparent in how graduation rates are calculated.

2. Use statistics that are as detailed as the ones we use for sports.

3. Ensure students actually understand and mastered the material required for graduation.

4. Track students for a longer period of time.

5. Deemphasize the one statistic everyone quotes: the graduation rate.

6. Investigate whether the graduation rate is an accurate representation of the opportunities available to students after graduation.

7. Personalize the problem and understand, as teachers, they are responsible for every student in their school system.


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Cover image via Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock, Inc..


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