Rules set out grad stats
Since 2004, the Hawaii Department of Education has told the federal government that nearly 80 percent of its public school students graduate on time. But some independent studies place the state's graduation rate at about 64 percent.
Hoping to end the discrepancy, the Bush administration yesterday suggested rules to require school districts nationwide to calculate graduation figures the same way by 2013. It was one of numerous changes Education Secretary Margaret Spellings proposed to raise accountability through the No Child Left Behind law, which Congress has not reauthorized this year.
States have used a range of graduation statistics that critics say are misleading and significantly underestimate dropout rates. The new method would have schools count how many graduates earn a diploma in four years, and also look at how many students entered high school four years earlier.
It also calls for states to break down graduation data by subgroups like minority students and set a graduation rate goal for every high school. Schools would need to reach the graduation target or demonstrate steady improvements to meet annual progress benchmarks and avoid government sanctions.
The proposed regulations came weeks after a report found that 17 of the nation's 50 largest cities had high school graduation rates below 50 percent. The study by America's Promise Alliance put Hawaii's graduation rate at 64.1 percent, lower than the national average of 70 percent.
Hawaii education officials have consistently challenged that number, saying it is based on an unreliable comparison of graduates earning a regular diploma with how many students entered high school the same year.
Sandy Goya, spokeswoman for Hawaii's Education Department, said officials are studying the proposed federal guidelines to check whether it could affect the state's graduation-rate calculations.
The Education Department uses a cohort system to track isle students from ninth grade through their senior year. The formula is adjusted to account for students who leave Hawaii, as well as those who transfer from other states during high school, officials have said.
"This approach is considered the most accurate method of calculating the graduation rate, and Hawaii is one of a few states that does this," Goya wrote in an e-mail.
Under proposed federal rules, school districts across the country would use one method to calculate graduation rates. Independent studies have put Hawaii's graduation rate at about 64 percent, a figure lower than what the state has reported in recent years (below):
Source: Hawaii Department of Education
|| Graduation rate