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So Stupid? American Graduation Rate Only 70%?!

Federal reporting of high-school graduation rates hide an embarrassing and depressing reality of the American education system. Only 70 percent of those who start ninth grade finish four years later.

Many states keep two statistics on hand. Mississippi for example, reports an 83 percent graduation rate to the federal government. The statistic used in the state, however, is 63 percent. California is another example. It reports 83 percent, but operates at home with a rate of 67 percent.

The New York Times explains that the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policy has something to do with the high reporting and low completion rate. NCLB requires students to meet high standards on proficiency tests, but sets no national requirement for graduation rates. Schools actually have an incentive to persuade failing students to drop out, as the schools' averages on tests will then increase.

Are you surprised that the national graduation rate is only 70 percent? Should US states be focusing on making sure more students graduate, or rather concentrate on helping the proficient students make greater strides?


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