Calculating Baltimore's High School Graduation Rate

INSIDE ED

April 22, 2009|By SARA NEUFELD | SARA NEUFELD,sara.neufeld@baltsun.com

Here's an excerpt of an entry posted Wednesday on The Baltimore Sun's InsideEd blog:

America's Promise Alliance, the collaborative founded by Colin and Alma Powell to improve the well-being of youth, has a new report out today with on-time high school graduation rates in the nation's 50 largest cities. In Baltimore, the rate increased 7.7 points over a decade, from 33.8 percent in 1995 to 41.5 percent in 2005.

The report, called "Cities in Crisis 2009," did its calculations slightly differently than the oft-cited Education Week rankings, but for Baltimore the results are about the same - and far lower than the city's official graduation rate as reported by the state: 62.6 percent in 2008 and 59 percent in 2005.

The state rate is likely an overstatement because some dropouts are not officially recorded as such.

But both the America's Promise and Ed Week calculations make things look worse than they are because they don't account for students moving in and out of the city.

And none of the calculations look beyond a four-year rate. I find this curious, as we judge colleges based on the number of students they graduate within six years, and what matters ultimately is whether someone gets a high school diploma - not how long it takes.

Typically, about 20 percent of seniors in Baltimore need a fifth year to finish. In fighting to maintain the HSA requirements for this year's seniors, schools chief Andr?s Alonso argued that he'll keep them around as long as it takes to get them to meet basic standards. (Students are legally entitled to stay in school until age 21.)

The report calculated that about 1.2 million students drop out of high school each year. That's 7,000 per school day or one every 26 seconds.

Nearly half of African-American and Hispanic students don't finish high school on time. The median income for high school dropouts is $14,000, compared with $24,000 for high school graduates.

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