- An investigation by NPR reveals that the nation's historically high 81% graduation rate may not be all it's cracked up to be.
- The multi-month investigation including reporters from 14 of its stations found that, from the district to state level, dubious strategies like mislabeling students, finding ways to remove them from the books, and easing graduation requirements are taking away from real progress made by schools putting in the long-term effort to make real improvements to their grad rates.
- NPR reports that studies funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, from Everyone Graduates Center and Civic Enterprises, have identified four reasons teens drop out before graduation: poor academics, life issues, "fadeout," and "pushout."
According to the research, high school students who fail to graduate due to academics are in the minority. The majority of dropouts were due to life issues — like pregnancy, illness, and incarceration — or "fadeout," who, according to the article, became bored, frustrated, or disillusioned.
The final group is the most controversial, according to NPR. "Pushouts" are identified as such because their schools purposely drove them out due to their high risk of non-completion. Worse yet, the incidence rate in this category is said to have increased since 2002, when graduation rates became an accountability measure on the federal level. In Chicago, for example, schools are alleged to remove these students from their books as "dropouts" by finding an alternative school to move them to and mislabeling them as "out-of-district transfers." And in Texas, which boasts the nation's second-highest grad rate, NPR reports that reporter Kate McGee at Austin member station KUT found that tens of thousands of students were being left out of dropout tallies.
Of course, all of this raises hard questions that policymakers on the state and federal level must now consider, as it casts major doubt on the graduation rates they've been touting. Worst of all, however, eased qualifications for graduating, as Achieve's Mike Cohen told NPR, may in fact amount to lying to kids about their readiness for the next stages in their lives.