The Texas Education Agency publishes graduation rates for all Texas public schools every year. Some people and organizations disagree with their methodology, saying they assume too many departing students wind up in school elsewhere or are homeschooled rather than counting them as dropouts. One such objector is Children At Risk, and they released their own report this past week.
Based on the most recent data, 61 percent of low-income students in Harris County public schools graduated, compared with 72 percent of those from wealthier families, according to the study. The rates reflect students who entered ninth grade in 2004 and graduated by 2010.
Children at Risk used data from the Texas Education Agency to calculate its own graduation rates because the researchers believe the agency’s publicly reported numbers don’t count all the dropouts.
For example, [Children At Risk President Bob] Sanborn said, he is skeptical when districts report to the TEA that numerous students leave after their freshman year to attend private school, to be home-schooled or to return to their native country. The state doesn’t require proof the students enrolled in new schools – and doesn’t know if they end up graduating – so Children at Risk counts them as dropouts.
Officials with the TEA and several local school districts strongly defended the state’s higher graduation rate calculation, arguing that the Children at Risk method punishes schools by counting as dropouts students who leave for legitimate reasons such as moving out of state or the country.
I don’t see Children At Risk’s report on their website, but K-12 Zone has their listing. I suppose you can see the two as the upper and lower bounds on graduation rates, since no one can ever be sure what happened to every kid that leaves a school before finishing it. Which one is closer to the truth, that’s the question. It sure would be nice to be more certain about this. In any event, the good news is that the trends are upward, though they’re still not where you’d want them to be. With the new exit exams coming, the concern is they’re in for a fall. However you tote up the numbers, we need to keep an eye on them.