A Graduation By Any Other Name…

A few weeks ago, the Wyoming Department of Education released the 2011-2012 graduations rates for the state and its individual districts.  The state average was down 0.85% to 78.9%.  Two years ago, I wrote a blog describing how absurd the federal government calculates graduation rates.  I’m not going to say it’s laughable, but Will Rogers famous quote “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts” certainly comes to mind.

To make a long story short, thousands of school personnel nationwide have been become responsible for tracking and documenting the movements and educational choices of our students.  Many of these people don’t care to be tracked and make our job exceptionally difficult.  Based on Glen Beck’s reaction to the Common Core State Standards, he’d probably have a stroke if knew the kind of data they expect us to glean from people no longer living in our school district (or Wyoming, or United States for that matter).

The bottom line, and the bone I’ve been publicly chewing on for the last five years, is that any student who fails to graduate in their prescribed four years is considered a drop out using the current calculation.   The WDE (under federal guidance), does keeps track of five and six year graduation rates, but these rates aren’t reported as a part of a district’s “official” graduation rate (the rate that is released to the public).  I guess my question is this, “Does it really matter how long it takes a student to graduate?”

Life happens people.  Our students experience accidents, illness, and family issues among other stressors in their lives.  And some of you would faint if you knew how many of our kids are working 20 plus hours a week on top of school and extracurricular activities (many  as significant contributors to the family income).

It would be nice if every student came to school every day completely prepared to learn.  But they don’t.  And for many of our students, the reasons they don’t are beyond their control (and ours for that matter).

So why does it matter if it takes them longer than four years to graduate?  I think the folks making these laws need to ask themselves this question?  Did I graduate college in four years?  If not, did it matter?  I think not.  I don’t see a lot of employers asking prospective job candidates if they got their diploma in four years.  Either you got it, or you didn’t.  You’re still a college graduate either way.  Why should high school be any different.

Over the last three years, the graduation rate at Pinedale High School has increased to 91.03%.  We’re proud of that fact; and it represents a lot of hard work by our students, parents, faculty, and staff.  But that statistic leaves out some pretty significant accomplishments by some really great kids that occurred at our alternative setting this year.

The whole thing kind of reminds me of an old joke.  What you call the guy who graduated last in his class at med school….Doctor.  The powers that be should be more concerned with how many of our students actually cross the finish line rather than what place they’re in.   Congratulations to all of our 2012-2013 graduates and their families.  No matter how the government classifies you, we’re proud of you.

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About Jay Harnack

Superintendent of Sublette County School District #1
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2 Responses to A Graduation By Any Other Name…

  1. Heidi says:

    Kudos, that was probably on of the best things I have read in a long time. Being number 1 is great but finishing is even better. Thank you!

  2. Sharron Ziegler says:

    Very nice!

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