03/01/07 — Tracking grads: New measurement is good, but numbers are a bit skewed

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Tracking grads: New measurement is good, but numbers are a bit skewed

The new method of measuring high school graduation rates is in place. So now, North Carolina parents will know for sure just how their children’s schools are performing, right?

Well, not necessarily.

When you first look at the numbers listed from state officials, they seem shocking. In Wayne County’s case, according to those statistics, 39 percent of the students who start off as ninth-graders in the district end up not receiving diplomas. The state average is not much better — 32 percent.

That’s a far cry from the 5 percent figures we have heard for years.

So does that mean schools have gotten that bad? Not really. It just means the state is getting better at figuring how to get the statistics that tell the tale of how many children continue on to become high school graduates in North Carolina.

Measuring graduation rates by looking at the ninth-graders is the right decision. We need to know as a community where and how many teens we are losing before they get to their senior year.

But look at the results with a knowledgeable eye. The statistics can only track students districts can find. Those who move out of state — or jump to college early — are hard to figure in the numbers. So, while we know we have a graduation problem, we should look for a solution with an eye to those measurement shortcomings.

Reaching teens who are not finishing high school should be one of this state’s top priorities. The new rates will give officials more information as they continue to look for new programs and ideas to keep potential dropouts in school.

This could be a jumping off point for some real work at improving our high schools and giving principals more diplomas to sign. And that is good news.

Published in Editorials on March 1, 2007 11:00 AM