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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The misinformation campaign about Jacksonville’s graduation rate continues (rough draft)

The Times Union praised Pratt-Dannals for the rise in graduation rates and frequently likes to mention how we have some of the highest standards around, what the Times Union doesn’t mention is how one helped cause the other . Another problem they have is they just look at the numbers and as we all know, sometimes numbers can lie.

Six years ago Duval County much to the chagrin of many of its teachers increased its graduation requirements. Algebra II no longer became a subject that just the nerdy kid took but now every kid had too and the same went for chemistry or physics as well.

(I don’t mean to digress but how many of you use advanced algebra in your everyday life?)

Do you know what happened as a result? Our graduation rate went down.
The year before the change our rate was 56.3 and the year after it was 51.4 though it has steadily climbed since then.

When Pratt Dannals became superintendent five years ago, the graduation rate was 51.5% and this last year it was 63.3% which is a significant increase but now that we know the higher grad requirements led to the superintendent's low starting point, let’s look beyond the numbers.

Duval County for the last few years has relied heavily on grade recovery to graduate many of its kids. Grade recovery used to be for kids that tried hard and just didn’t get it or for kids who missed a lot of days for a legitimate and documented reason. Sadly it changed under Pratt-Dannals and now any kid, can take it any time, under any circumstance. Now kids that made no effort, never came or spent the majority of their time disrupting class are eligible and using it to make up classes. Rigor, accountability, heck even supervision have all been compromised as a result.

The Times Union did an article a while back which said 15,000 kids had used GR to make up classes. Say just half the kids who took advantage of it didn’t deserve too (I think it is closer to ninety percent) well that could explain as much as a six percent increase in our graduation rate. Unfortunately there is no way to adequately tell and I believe the district likes it that way.

But it is worse than that friends. Teachers are told all the time with air quotes that they can only fail a certain amount of kids, or if they fail to many their jobs will be in jeopardy. Many people think rigor in our schools has been seriously compromised and kids that give just a minimal effort are passed through. How much of a role did the district’s unofficial gentlemen’s C policy affect graduation rates? I would guess more so than even grade recovery did.

So what’s our legitimate prepared to be successful in life or college, graduation rate. I don’t know but I do know that businesses report having a hard time finding good applicants and 70% of our grads have to take remedial classes at Florida State College. I don’t know but I know it is significantly less than the grossly inflated graduation rate we have now. The Times Union and the district should know that too but they instead look the other way. Numbers not kids being what is important to them.

Graduation rates by year:

2011- 63.3%
2010- 58.3%
2009- 55.8%
2008- 53.5%
2007- 51.5%
2006- 51.4%
2005- 56.3%
2004- 57.2%
2003- 52.2%

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