More seemingly great news from the Virginia Department of Education… Nine out of ten students who entered the ninth grade in 2011 earned a diploma within four years, and more than half graduated with an Advanced Studies Diploma, VDOE announced today. The equally positive flip side of the coin: The drop-out rate continues to decline. The drop-out rate for the class of 2015 was 5.2%, down from 5.4% the previous year.
Folks, either we’re making great educational strides in Virginia, or Virginia’s educrats are masters of the snow job. I don’t know which, but the trends reported by VDOE are encouraging on their face and warrant digging into to see if they reflect real gains in educational achievement or simply the watering down of standards.
Here’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples’ spin on the data: “The students who graduated in May and June began high school just as the commonwealth was introducing challenging, new assessments in mathematics, English and science. That we’ve seen another rise in the graduation rate — despite a significant increase in the expectations for high school students — indicates the hard work and professional expertise of the teachers, principals and other educators in the commonwealth’s high schools are making a real difference.”
For what it’s worth, VDOE has not inflated the graduation rate by counting GEDs.
But not everyone trusts VDOE. John Butcher over at Cranky’s Blog skewers the department for abandoning the Student Growth Performance (SGP) metric in favor of a new metric, the “Progress Table.” His analysis of VDOE: “They are stupid, or they are lying.”
I haven’t delved into the weeds enough to affirm John’s logic on this particular issue, although I’ve found his thinking to be sound in the past. As for the graduation rate statistics, they sound like good news. But I embrace the old Ronald Reagan maxim of “trust but verify.”
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