When other reporters ask me what Oakland’s graduation rate is, I cringe — and not because it’s so low. It’s because the answer is impossibly wonky.
According to the formula used by the California Department of Education, 61 percent of Oakland’s high school students graduated in 2006. For the Class of 2001, it was reported to be nearly 74 percent. But researchers, using a grade-progression formula called the Cumulative Promotion Index, have consistently put it at below half.
A report released today by Colin Powell’s organization, America’s Promise Alliance, (and conducted by EdWeek’s Editorial Projects in Education Director Christopher Swanson) estimated that a mere 46 percent of Oakland’s Class of 2004 graduated on time with a regular diploma.
Neither statistic is remotely encouraging — don’t get me wrong — but researchers have argued for years that some states have hid their dropout problems with fuzzy math and spotty data reporting.
Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced (at the press conference in which the report was unveiled) that all states will soon be required to use the same calculation to report dropout rates for No Child Left Behind. She didn’t say which one.
Of course, until states develop a tracking system to follow individual students, the estimates will still be just estimates. But will a more honest and accurate reporting of data help to solve the dropout crisis in Oakland and other cities? Maybe.
What do you think?
image from Chee Meng Au Yong’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons