Last week I posted a piece entitled, “High School Graduation Rate, Too Good to Be True,” wherein I wondered if the spectacular gains in the high school graduation rates for Virginia students were too good to be true. I didn’t know — I was just raising a question.
Reader John Butcher proffers this look at the data:
I would add a couple of points to your piece on graduation rates.
First, the overall 89.2% graduation rate for the 2013 4-year cohort is bogus. VDOE counts the Modified Standard and Special Diplomas and General Achievement Diplomas to get to that number. The differences between the diplomas are set out at length here. In short, the Standard Diploma requires twenty-two standard credits and six “verified” credits (i.e., six passed end of course SOL tests); the Modified Standard Diploma is for students with disabilities and requires only twenty course credits. The relaxed requirements for the Modified Standard degree are in addition to the accommodations available to students with disabilities who seek a Standard Diploma. The Special Diploma, also for students with disabilities, requires only completion of the Individual Educational Plan. The General Achievement Diploma is granted to persons who exit high school without a diploma (think dropouts, mostly) and who earn twenty standard credits and pass the GED.
If we count only the Standard and Advanced degrees, as is required for federal reporting, the 4-year cohort graduation rate in 2013 was 85.5%. As the UVa blog points out, an 89.2% rate is far from satisfactory; 85.5% is still farther from satisfactory.
That said, the major increases in the rates between 2008 and 2013 are in the black, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged populations, just as they are in the bogus numbers.
Second, you ask whether the improvements in the graduation rate are beingachieved by social promotion. The VCU catalog gives one measure of that:
All VCU students are required to take UNIV 111, 112 and 200. A minimum grade of C is required in UNIV 112 and UNIV 200. Transfer credits are not accepted for these courses after a student is enrolled at the university.
Hold any of the three course descriptions up to a bright light, you’ll see “remedial” written all over. For instance, UNIV 111:
UNIV 111 Focused Inquiry I (Fall 2014)
Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Utilizes contemporary themes to give students opportunities and practice in writing, critical thinking, oral presentation, collaborative learning, information retrieval and evaluation, and social and civic responsibilities. Incorporates common reading materials and course activities across all sections.
If you think that might describe a real college course, I can introduce you to a recent graduate of Maggie Walker Governor’s School who was forced to endure the predecessors of Univ 111 and 112. We can infer that things are worse since he left VCU because they now have a third required remedial course.