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The Washington Times. 

Study: Graduation rates 'implausibly high'
November 14, 2001

By Cheryl Wetzstein

The nation's high school graduation rates are inflated to the point of "implausibility," says a study that finds that black students graduate from public schools at especially low levels.

Nationally, only 74 percent of the class of 1998 in public schools graduated, said Jay P. Greene, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

This compares with an 86 percent national high school completion rate in 1998, according to the federal National Center for Education Statistics.

The federal government measures high school completion rates based on census data and reports from school districts, and includes people up to age 24, as well as those who receive an "equivalent" degree, such as a General Educational Development (GED) credential.

Mr. Greene said the federal approach allows too much room for error and results in graduation rates that are "implausibly high." He took the unique approach of counting the number of eighth-graders in public schools in the 1993-94 school year and comparing it with the number of high school diplomas issued in their graduation year of 1997-98.

After adjusting the figures for demographic changes, Mr. Greene concluded that of 3.33 million eighth-graders, 2.45 million graduated, for a 74 percent graduation rate.

Michael Pons, a policy analyst at the National Education Association, said Mr. Greene's approach was "flawed," partly because he didn't count GED numbers.

"America is the land of second chances," and young people who "come to their senses" and finish their high school education should receive recognition for that accomplishment, said Mr. Pons.

He agreed, however, that national dropout rates are far too high for all students, and called for better preschool education, smaller class sizes and higher teacher quality.

According to the Department of Education, black students had a high school completion rate of 72 percent, while Hispanic students had a rate of 52 percent, said DOE spokeswoman Lindsey Kozberg.

The Manhattan Institute study found that black students had a 56 percent graduation rate and Hispanic students had a 54 percent graduation rate, said Mr. Greene.

Seven states Oregon, Ohio, Nevada, Tennessee, Georgia, Minnesota and Wisconsin and 15 out of 50 major school districts graduated fewer than half of their black students in 1998, the study said.

These figures matter because students who fail to graduate "face a very bleak future," said Mr. Greene, citing evidence that high school dropouts are likely to earn less and are more likely to commit crimes and use public welfare than high school graduates.

"The results of this study are merely another indication of the disastrous consequences of trapping low-income families, mostly of color, in educational systems in which they have no meaningful options," said Kaleem Caire, president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, which commissioned the study.

Noting that Cleveland and Milwaukee had two of the lowest graduation rates for black students, Mr. Caire said, "We believe that it is no coincidence that the movement for greater options in education is gaining strength in precisely those places where graduation rates are embarrassingly low."

Locally, the Manhattan Institute study found that Fairfax County had the highest graduation rate of 50 school districts, while several other area school districts performed well.

2001 The Washington Times

 


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