In defense of 'the obvious'

I had a feeling the story that ran today, Study measures dropouts' impact, might elicit a "Duh!" response from some.


Judging by comments from online readers, that's exactly what it did.


But commenter Martinez raises a valid point. "The answer," Martinez says, "is not to ‘give away' more diplomas."


I couldn't agree more, as do, I believe, many people in education policy circles.


The point of the study, as I read it, was not to encourage the watering down of standards or anything else that would cheapen the value of a diploma. There's plenty of evidence out there that shows too many high school graduates still need to take remedial courses before they can even begin college-level work, or that they need extra training before they are ready to begin a post-high school job.


The organization that released the report, Alliance for Excellent Education, consistently advocates for changes in national and federal policy so that "all students can achieve at high academic levels and graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship" in the 21st century.


As part of that, the alliance, a nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based think tank, has participated in several high-profile efforts to report on the lagging graduation rates across the country and call for changes to improve that. The latest of those, which got some attention nationally, was a three-day seminar in Washington called Building a Grad Nation. During the summit, which wrapped up Wednesday (and at which I was not present, but I have read several of its materials), a report was issued showing that there has been progress nationwide toward making all high schools more effective at graduating students within four years with regular diplomas.


Contributors to the report include the seminar's host, America's Promise Alliance, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University.


Of course, the best intentions of any organization, be it governmental, nonprofit or a business, mean nothing if change doesn't actually occur at the front lines: in the classrooms of the schools in Richmond, Columbia and Aiken counties and all across the nation.


The point of the report, and the story I wrote, I think was to serve as a reminder to those who can make a difference -- school district leadership, school administration, teachers, parents and even students themselves -- to explain again just why it matters that students stay in school and not be either "pushed out" or be allowed to drift away.


If just one person who reads the story, or the report, is inspired to make the extra effort to help a struggling teenager stay in school, help any student learn at a higher level and do all they can to be prepared for life after high school, then it will have made a difference.


Also, don't forget the project showing the link between attendance and graduation -- another which elicited a "Duh!" response from readers. As intuitive as these concepts are or may seem, I believe it's important to show data that either support or refute them to reinforce how important it is to not overlook the obvious in the important mission of making sure as many students as possible graduate from high school ready to take on a full-time job, join the military or go on to some form of postsecondary education. Look out for another installment of this project coming in the next few weeks that will examine attendance and graduation rates of subgroups of students as measured by race/ethnicity, economic status, English language proficiency and whether they have disabilities.


Please keep the comments coming -- positive, negative, critical. I value your feedback and will try my best to maintain a conversation here about education issues.

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Craig Spinks
Craig Spinks 03/26/11 - 05:17 am
What have been the effects of

What have been the effects of the drop-out summit conducted in September 2009 by the RCSS? The summit was funded by a $25K grant from America's Promise.

Jason Wermers
Jason Wermers 04/12/11 - 05:39 pm
Craig, that's a good

Craig, that's a good question, and I'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond. Honestly, I just saw your comment a few minutes ago while working on a story on a follow-up to the story referenced in this blog post. I honestly don't know that there is an answer to the effect of the dropout summit. I can tell you this: The graduation rate for the Class of 2010 was significantly higher than that for the Class of 2009, both in Richmond County and in Georgia. But I'm not sure that can be attributed to the summit. It will be interesting to see how the graduation and dropout rates trend in the next several years to see if this summit had a significant impact.

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