Yesterday, BoardBuzz told you about Virginia’s new high school graduation rate and how students who graduated in more than four years (late graduates) are not counted as graduates. And we just came across this important article from Education Week (registration required) on the debate over whether to give schools credit for students who graduate in more than four years or not.
The article points out that there are those who are concerned about giving schools even partial credit for their late graduates. Such as Dane Linn, director of the education division at NGA’s Center for Best Practices who said:
We need to be careful. We can’t yield to pressure that lots of kids need extra time, when all they might need is extra support to finish the requirements.
But BoardBuzz asks: what incentive do schools have to keep students in school longer rather than provide them with extra support to help them finish their requirements? It would take a lot less time and resources for a school to provide extra support instead of paying for an extra year of schooling. So what reason would a school have to keep a student in school longer than needed? BoardBuzz can’t think of any.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true now; schools are penalized for keeping kids in school who had fallen behind their classmates. BoardBuzz isn’t the only one who thinks so. as Education Week points out as well:
Under the law’s accountability provisions, students who don’t graduate in four years count against schools’ graduation rates. Many educators have complained that such an approach punishes schools that go the extra mile to keep students from dropping our or to lure back those who have left school.
Maybe Dane Linn and others who are concerned that giving schools credit for their late graduates will be harmful to students should check out the Center for Public Education’s report Better late than never: Examining late high school graduates. There they will find that similar on-time graduates are no better off after high school than late graduates in several areas (although not in others). However, students are much better off graduating late than dropping out or even going on to earn a GED. In any case, BoardBuzz has to respectfully disagree with Daria Hall over at the Education Trust, who said giving credit to schools for late graduates is “one of the trickier policy conversations we’ve been involved in for a while.” No, it’s not tricky. Give schools credit where credit is due and count late graduates as graduates. Schools should be rewarded for their efforts to keep students in school unitl they earn a diploma, not punished.
Fortunately, it appears BoardBuzz has an ally who may be able to do something about it. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said:
You want to really reward the schools that do a great job of helping those students who are most at risk. So you need balance there. While [graduating in] in three years is magical, and four is great, five is good too. There’s nothing sacred about four.
What’s your take on it? Leave a comment and tell us about it.