Today’s Denver Post story about Lincoln High School’s soaring graduation rate seems, at first blush, to be a bit of good news — a nice way to start the day. I hope the tale the story tells is true. But I fear there are some facts lurking that the story glossed over. Here’s the story’s basic premise:
The number of Lincoln students graduating in 2008 more than doubled from 2006 – increasing to 315 from 120. The school’s graduation rate also improved to 67.9 percent in 2008 from 47.6 percent in 2006.
“For one school to increase the number of graduates by 200 students in three years is a tremendous testament to the efforts of a committed faculty and a wonderful principal,” Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg said.
Indeed. Hats off to Principal Antonio Esquibel, himself a Lincoln graduate. His continued push to get Lincoln students enrolled in college classes while still in high school (a program started by his predecessor Scot Mendelsberg, who writes for this blog) is laudable.
But wait: There’s one other key bit of information in the story. How do Lincoln students fare once they get to college? Not so well, unfortunately. At least not initially:
About 75 percent of this year’s graduating class has been accepted to college or a post-high school academic program. However, 78 percent of Lincoln students who went to college in 2006 had to take remedial courses once they got there.
The school is working on that by increasing the number of advanced- placement classes to 13, compared with six AP courses three years ago.
And According to a January 12, 2009 article in the late, lamented Rocky Mountain News, (written by EdNews Colorado’s Nancy Mitchell):
At Abraham Lincoln High School , the number of graduates attending a Colorado college or university over three years has nearly doubled – along with the school ‘s remediation rate.
According to Nancy’s story, over the past three years, 64.3 percent of Lincoln graduates have had to take at least one remedial college course. Her story defines a remedial course as one where a student must “pay for and complete a basic skills course that does not count for college credit before they can enroll in a class that will count toward a degree.”
I hope Lincoln is lowering its remediation rate as its graduation rate goes up. But the numbers cited above are discouraging. And putting unprepared kids into AP classes won’t necessarily solve anything — though it is a good first step.
It’s a sad but understandable reality of school reform that when pressure is brought to bear on a particular issue, — graduation rates, for example — people start focusing their attention on addressing that issue. But often, they just bump the problem further down the line. So any improvement that results is illusory.
You have to ask yourself: Are higher graduation rates real, or is the a case of “juking the stats” so some other person or institution (i.e. colleges) has to deal with it?
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