Kati Haycock, director of The Education Trust, on the Harvard Civil Rights Project and Urban Institute Report on high school graduation rates

Publication date: Feb 25, 2004

(Washington, DC) — There’’s no question that high school graduation rates across the country are abysmal, and that the shocking racial disparities in graduation rates are unconscionable. That’s why the Education Trust released last December a report documenting the fact that many states shamelessly inflate their high school graduation rates and minimize their graduation gaps. And why, at that time, we called on the U.S. Department of Education to take a much stronger role in the implementation of the high school graduation rate accountability provisions in No Child Left Behind.

““Last year, the Department sent clear signals that graduation data was not an issue about which it cared — including sending out data-reporting directions that were at odds with the law and the Department’s own regulations — and states cynically took advantage of the Department’s inattention by publishing data that obfuscates and obscures the problem rather than addresses it. The Department has belatedly appointed an advisory commission to look at the issue, and we are hopeful that more accurate data will be reported in the future. Meaningful accountability in public education has to measure both student learning and whether students are still in school to learn.

“”But any suggestion that high school dropouts are somehow caused by accountability is absolutely incorrect. Indeed, to suggest that accountability forces educators to harm children actually rewards irresponsibility and bad behavior. Worse still, it lets educators and the education system off the hook.

“”Make no mistake, this is about adult choices — professional and ethical choices. When professionals in other fields act in bad faith, no one calls for less accountability. In fact, they often call for more.

““Would anyone claim that corporate scandals are the result of too much accountability? Would anyone — other than perhaps his defense attorneys – claim that former Enron chief Jeffrey Skilling was forced into cheating and that the SEC is at fault for requiring the disclosure of information and enforcing securities laws? Would anyone claim that the proper response to such unethical and unprofessional behavior would be to stop holding corporations accountable?

“”Absolutely not.

“”Choosing to break the rules and take actions that harm children is just that: a choice. When we explain away such choices with euphemisms like ‘“forced’” or ‘“unintended consequence,’” we excuse educators from their professional and ethical obligations. We send a message to our nation’s young people that irresponsibility will be met with impunity. That is simply unacceptable.”

To see the Education Trust’’s December report on high school graduation rates: http://edtrust.org/resource/telling-the-whole-truth-or-not-about-high-school-graduation-new-state-data/

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