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Learning to Count

Exposing the state’s true graduation rate

Betsy Yagla

March 31, 2010

Connecticut’s graduation rate is not as rosy as the state has painted it in the past. According to a report released last week by the State Department of Education, our high-school graduation rate is not in the low 90s as has been reported, it’s a cumulative 79.3 percent.?

“That’s a full 10 percent worse than what they advertised,” says state Rep. Jason Bartlett (D-Bethel), who sits on the legislature’s education committee and is committed to fighting the state’s achievement gap — the largest in the country.

?Five years ago, Gov. Jodi Rell and all 49 other governors, signed a pact promising to change the way the state counts high-school graduation rates. The up-till-now method “tends to inflate the graduation rate,” according to the National Governors Association, because the method counts students who take longer than four years to graduate and students who graduate with a GED (like at adult education) instead of a diploma. That method didn’t count dropouts. This is the first year Connecticut is reporting data using the new method, which counts students using a unique ID number, which allows the state to follow students throughout their educational career.

?In short, it’s more accurate.

?It’s also more depressing.?

Only 58 percent of Hispanics graduate and 66 percent of African Americans, compared to 86 percent of white students. Those numbers, Bartlett says, are more proof of the state’s achievement gap.?

“The numbers speak for themselves,” Bartlett says. ?

The state legislature’s education committee recently passed a bill out of committee that would address the achievement gap. The bill would link teacher evaluations to student academic growth, create a so-called parent trigger that would allow parents to petition for changes at a failing school and move back the date of the annual student census (which directly correlates to how much money school districts receive) to prevent schools from pushing students into adult education.?

In announcing the state’s graduation rate, Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan said the state needs to push for legislative change to prevent more dropouts. He specifically mentioned discouraging school districts from using adult education as a high-school alternative and moving back the schools’ census dates. Bartlett says he’s “encouraged” to see McQuillan endorse his ideas.

?McQuillan calls the graduation rates for black and Hispanic students “alarming,” adding that the state needs to “approach this issue with a sense of urgency.”

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Advocate.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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