• IDRA Newsletter • May 2008 • 

In early April, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings stated that she would be proposing rules to “ensure that all states use the same formula to calculate how many students graduate from high school on time.” At the same time, while announcing a plan to hold 100 dropout prevention summits nationwide, Colin Powell, former U.S. secretary of state, called the country’s low graduation rates “a national catastrophe.”

In fact, every year, we are losing more than 1.2 million young people from U.S. schools prior to their graduation. One student is lost from public school enrollment every two minutes. The dropout crisis persists at tremendous cost to individual students, families, communities and the nation.

IDRA uses a set of principles to guide policy and community discussions. Given the renewed debate at the national level, we again have listed these principles below to help in the move from a low and archaic expectation that only some of our country’s students can successfully graduate from high school to a guarantee that all of our students will graduate.

Uncompromising Expectations for Graduating All Students

Principle 1:

All students enrolled in U.S. schools should be expected, and must be supported, to graduate from high school with a regular high school diploma in four years.

Principle 2:

At the federal level, we must create a credible system to accurately account for the educational status of every pupil who enters the ninth grade in any secondary school, including formal and verifiable student re-enrollments and transfers.

Principle 3:

Using student-level longitudinal data, the United States should implement a transparent and simple methodology to count and report on high school graduates.

Principle 4:

The creation of high school graduation rate data should not replace calculation and reporting of high school dropout rates that inform and guide prevention and recovery efforts.

Principle 5:

Alternative education settings must be subject to the same graduation standards as all other schools.

Principle 6:

In addition to using four-year graduation rates, states, school districts and schools should report annual and longitudinal dropout rates; number and percent of students who graduate in five or six years; number of in-grade retentions; number of students receiving GEDs; and number of students meeting all graduation requirements but not receiving a regular high school diploma because of failure to pass a state-level high-stakes exam.

Principle 7:

High school graduation and dropout data should be reported at the federal, state, district and school levels and should be disaggregated by race, ethnicity, socio-economic and English language learner status.

Principle 8:

Exemptions from graduation and dropout counting must be strictly limited and must conform to IDEA provisions.

Principle 9:

Reporting should be readily available and easily accessible to the public. Reporting must directly inform communities and parents about status of the issue and progress being made to address it.

Principle 10:

State and local progress requirements should be proportional to the graduation rate gap to be closed.

Principle 11:

State efforts to address high school graduation rates should recognize systemic issues that affect student graduation, including teaching quality, curriculum quality and access, student engagement, and parent and community engagement.

Principle 12:

Ongoing evaluation of progress must be an integral part of any effort at the federal, state and local levels to address graduation goals.

Principle 13:

In ensuring that all students graduate, schools should incorporate pedagogical changes that enable them to better adapt to the needs and strengths of their students.

Principle 14:

No single criterion (e.g., high-stakes testing) should be used to make high school graduation decisions for any individual student.

Principle 15:

The federal level and states must acknowledge shared accountability for the graduation of all students by investing the personnel and equitable fiscal resources needed to help schools meet federally-established graduation targets.

Principle 16:

All efforts to increase graduation rates must be based on valuing families, educators, communities and students; no response should promote a “deficit model” or blame.

Principle 17:

It is vital to recognize that this issue affects students of all races and ethnicities (for example, the largest numbers of dropouts in many states are White students).

Principle 18:

Since low graduation rates disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minority students, accelerated efforts to address the issue in these communities is essential.

Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2008, IDRA. The following article originally appeared in the May 2008 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]