Many would be surprised to know how many school policies are changed during the summer months. Some of these are communicated to the communities involved but most simply slide into becoming policy. How Maine schools will be calculating graduation rates is one of these policies.
The Federal Government, you remember the one that gave us a trillion dollar debt, one of the longest wars in our nation's history, double digit unemployment, bail out packages for banks and companies that were considered to big to fail, and now education policies that have nothing to do with the education of our children. They have told the Maine Department of Education their graduation rates will be calculated in a new manner. In fact, they have told every state the means of determining graduation rates will change.
The new method will calculate the graduation rate from all students who entered the ninth grade at the same time and who graduated in no more than four years. This means that any student who takes off a year from high school will be considered a drop out even though he or she may come back to graduate in five years. This is remarkable even for our Federal Government. As educators we all recognize the fact that all students do not take the same pathway through their secondary school years. We are now being told the graduation rates only include students who follow the four-year route.
Needless to say the new formula will surely push Maine's and New Hampshire's graduation rate lower thus making it difficult for any school to achieve the graduation rates our Federal Government wants us to achieve. Before this new policy different states had different formulas to equate graduation rates. After 2011, the entire country will be using this new formula.
If schools across our nation have their graduation rates plummet because of this new formula and since 'ayp' (annual yearly progress) uses graduation rates as a means of determining whether or not a school is considered successful will our nations schools be considered failing because of a new formula that has nothing to do with the success rate of its students.
After schools begin to fail will our Federal Government begin to dismember the school districts. Will they take money away or even worse will they mandate the school go through trainings and even testing to determine why their graduation rates are declining even though it is obvious what the reason is. The concept of more testing makes me want to put a #2 pencil in my eye.
What is it going to take to get the Federal Government out of our local schools. With all their tests, formulas, policies, and theories written by people who never stepped a foot in any classroom, when are they going to let our schools succeed by concentrating on our students instead of concentrating on a line of statistics that can be altered to define what the government wants them to define.
Many would be surprised to know how many school policies are changed during the summer months. I suggest we all stay alert in order to protect our children from a bureaucracy that sustains itself by creating new formulas.
Jim Fabiano is a teacher and writer living in York, Maine
Maine Publisher's Association Best weekly column award for 2004
Recipient of Theodore William Richards Award by the American Chemical Society for excellence in teaching secondary school chemistry for 2007.
Email Jim: firstname.lastname@example.org