Florida education commissioner: Graduation rate formula "not as clear as it should be"
As Saturday's St. Petersburg Times story noted with a brief quote, Florida Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith is not defending the state's graduation rate formula, which has a loophole big enough to drive a convoy of dropouts through. Keep reading to see his comments in more detail.
(To recap: the formula discounts thousands of students who transfer into adult education programs. A Times analysis shows that pumps up the state rate by 6 percentage points and some district rates even more. Hillsborough's much-touted rate falls from 82.3 percent to 70.4 percent when adult ed transfers are factored in. The loophole will close in 2011-12, when the state moves to yet another grad rate formula - the "federal uniform rate.")
Said Smith: "We lose track of them (adult ed transfers) and where they end up. They could be transferred to adult ed and be gone in a day and actually be a dropout but disguised ... "
"I wouldn't call it misleading. But it doesn't give you as pure a calculation as we can have, one that would allow us to compare success or lack of success within a school or a district across the state the way we would like to. The more exceptions you add, the more poorly defined it is. And it becomes a problem for us. We end up seeing things like you're identifying now ... "
The rate is "not as clear as it should be. Most people, when they hear the term graduation rate, they expect it to be the kids that march across your stage with a full high school diploma. And that's not what we're reporting today. We report that plus some exceptions. For mom and dad at home, it can lead to a misunderstanding about what the actual graduation rate is ... "
"I think what intensifies the problem is the graduation rate now part of high school accountability ... the increased focus and pressure on increasing the graduation rate, that sometimes could lead to some pretty bad choices with kids. If you don't keep it tight, the way you define it, it leaves it open to be gamed or misused or used inappropriately. I'm not saying that's widespread but it certainly could be something to occur. The way to avoid it is to tighten it up."