Archives for category: High School Graduation


Mercedes Schneider reports a welcome development in New Orleans: in the wake of a grade-fixing scandal, all student records will be audited.

As she says, it is about time. After so much boasting from NOLA, it’s time to check the facts.

She writes:

This is a long time coming.

As a result of the grade-fixing scandal at a New Orleans charter high school– a scandal that resulted in 49 percent of the school’s Class of 2019 being found to lack credits and/or exit exam scores– Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) superintendent, Henderson Lewis, vows a criminal investigation of that school, Kennedy High School (operated by New Beginnings Schools Foundation) as well as an audit of student records for students attending New Orleans high schools.




This is a story about a high school in Missouri that should have been on the U.S. News list of the best high schools in America. The teachers are dedicated. Many of the kids are beating the odds against them. They are hard-working. They have grit and perseverance. They will make great contributions to society.

Ray Hartmann of the Riverfront Times tells an inspiring story of students, teachers, and administrators at Normandy High School who are succeeding despite the mainstream narrative that writes them off.

Ninety-seven percent of its students are black, and a stunning 92 percent of the 3,100 kids residing in the district’s 23 municipalities are poor enough to qualify for free and reduced student lunches. The median household income in the district is $30,100, and the median home value is $69,700.

Perhaps even more daunting…the district has a 40 percent “mobility rate.” That means, unlike your Claytons and Ladues, nearly half of the kids in the district are either homeless or moving between homes in the school year.

Many people look at these numbers, writes Hartmann, and think “failing school.” But when he visited, he saw a different story.

He saw teachers who care about students, and students who are proud of their school.

He attended graduation ceremonies and wrote about two students.

Meet Kayvion Calvert, one of the privileged few. Thanks to his own initiative — and to the fact that he went to a high school that cared about him and afforded him the chance to make the most of his abilities — Kayvion is off to Alabama A&M University to major in political science and minor in secondary education, with a résumé that’s almost ridiculously impressive.

He was class president as a senior, serving all four years in student government. He was also a four-year member of the school choir, a passion he pursued while singing in both the choir at his church and another one in the community, as well as acting in drama club productions.

Obviously, Kayvion Calvert is not your average kid. And, admittedly, maybe it helped that he didn’t come from just any public school district.

Then there’s Gabrielle Brown, Kayvion’s classmate. She was class valedictorian, with a GPA of 3.96. But, in fairness, she too was a bit privileged: Not only did her high school launch her to a college scholarship in computer science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, but it provided an opportunity to supplement her high school studies in an associate degree program at St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley.

So, in addition to graduating as class valedictorian, Gabrielle is already a member of the Phi Theta Kappa college honor society, which honors students at two-year colleges. She was also a member of the high school band. And she had an internship at Centene.

You could forgive Gabrielle if she were a little boastful about all this. But she’s not, deflecting credit to the fact that she was one of the fortunate ones who attended a high school that, in an email, she termed “a critical factor” in her success.

“At my school, you establish so many connections and develop so many relationships, you meet people from so many diverse backgrounds it’s honestly astonishing,” she wrote. “The people you meet don’t just fade out of your life, either. They are present and encourage you [to] continue on your road of success.

“When I was little, going to my elementary school as a child, they had programs to help children succeed. Whether the child was advanced or a little behind, they are capable of supporting children on a more personal level and really connect with them. They influenced me to become the person I am today, and I intend to continue giving back.”

That’s not your everyday loyalty from a high school student. But kids like Gabrielle and Kayvion didn’t go to your everyday privileged high school.

No, they graduated from Normandy. Yes, the same Normandy Schools Collaborative often presented as the symbol of all that’s wrong with public education in St. Louis and the nation.

Why isn’t this heroic school on the U.S. News list as one of the best high schools in the nation, instead of all those public schools in affluent neighborhoods and charter schools that cherrypick their students?



Chalkbeat’s Philissa Cramer reports that Betty Rosa, Chancellor of the New York Board of Regents, wrote that it is time to reconsider the Regents exams.  

Students must pass five Regents exams to graduate high school.

New York is one of only 11 states with high school exit exams.

Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa published a column in an online newspaperaccessible to members of the New York State School Boards Association suggesting that the state could one day do away with the graduation tests it has used since the mid-1800’s.

“Regents exams have been the gold standard for over a century – and with good reason,” Rosa wrote in February. “But our systems must be continually reviewed, renewed, and occasionally revised in order to best serve our students and the people of this great state….

The column laid out no timeline for possible changes. (State education officials did not answer additional questions.) Rosa wrote that she would ask the two-year-old Regents Research Work Group, launched to identify ways to diversify New York schools, to study the state’s graduation requirements. Part of the group’s charge, she said, would be to “examine current research and practice to determine … whether state exit exams improve student achievement, graduation rates, and college readiness.”

The research on that point is clear. As Matt Barnum reported in 2016, studies have found that graduation tests do not result in better-prepared graduates and actually harm some students, especially low-income students of color.

For much of their history, the Regents exams were intended for the college-bound. Students who did not take the Regents exams could graduate by taking a competency test of basic skills. In 1996, State Commissioner Richard Mills pushed through the idea that all high school students should be required to pass the Regents exams. He and the Board of Regents assumed that setting the bar higher would raise achievement for all.

Once a mark of distinction, the Regents exams were watered down when they became a universal requirement.

A single standard for all will never be a high standard. The failure rate would be politically intolerable.



This is the last of the podcasts that Gary Rubinstein reviews. There’s dissent in the high school. The students rebel against the discipline. Most teachers bail out.

But graduation comes at last. Of the 73 students who started, 16 graduates made it. It annoys Gary that the interviewer tiptoes around the issue of attrition. Senior year started with 17 students. One mysteriously disappeared. 16 survived the Success Academy boot camp.

The 2019 graduating class consists of 26 students. The president of Harvard University will deliver the commencement address to this tiny cohort, a sign of Eva’s power, money, and connections.

These 26 students are the survivors of a class that originally included 83 students. Eighty percent of the graduates are females.

But there is progress: the first graduating class was 16 of 73. The second was 26 of 83.

No one seems to wonder what happened to those that didn’t make it to graduation.

Has Eva created a template for American public education?

To see all of Gary’s posts on this topic, here they are.


This is a story that made me happy. I graduated from a non-selective, open admissions public high school in Houston. It was untracked (but unfortunately it was racially segregated like all schools in Houston because I graduated in 1956). I never heard of selective admissions until I came to New York City. Or tracking or magnet schools (which were originally designed to promote racial integration, not as havens for white students).

Matt Barnum writes about studies showing that it really doesn’t matter whether a student goes to a selective high school.

“Studies looking at the test-in schools in those cities and in Chicago have found that students receive little if any measurable benefit from attending them. Students with similar qualifications who attend high school elsewhere end up with comparable SAT scores and college admissions offers, they find.

“There is perhaps too much attention on these test schools as if they’re lifesavers, and we have evidence that maybe they’re not,” said Tomas Monarrez, who studies segregation at the Urban Institute….

”In a 2014 study titled “The Elite Illusion,” Pathak and other researchers compared students who just made the cut to attend a test-in school in Boston or New York City and similar students who fell just short. (Notably, the Boston schools, unlike New York City’s, don’t rely exclusively on test scores for admissions decisions.)

“The difference in test scores, including on the SAT and Advanced Placement exams, between the two groups was largely nonexistent.

“Perhaps more important to parents and students is whether attending one of those household-name schools helps kids get into a better college. The answer, according to a separate study focusing on New York City’s specialized high school graduates between 1994 and 2013, is not really.

“There was no evidence that those students were more likely to enroll in college, complete college, or attend an especially elite institution than comparable students who went to high school elsewhere. There was also little difference between students who just missed the cutoff for Stuyvesant but got into another of the test-in schools, like Bronx Science.

“The Boston study came to similar conclusions.

“In some cases, there were even negative effects: Students who just made it into Brooklyn Tech were actually 2 percentage points less likely to graduate from a four-year college as a result….

”The many clubs and activities found at some exam schools may expose students to ideas and concepts not easily captured by achievement tests or our post-secondary outcomes,” wrote the Boston and New York City researchers.

“That idea strengthens the case for adjusting the selection process to admit more black and Hispanic students who otherwise wouldn’t have access to those resources.

“It is still important to try to open the door of these schools,” The Urban Institute’s Monarrez said. “But perhaps [we should] just not think of these schools as the best and only answer to these problems.”




Education Week conducted a survey of graduation rates and discovered that charter high schools have lower graduation rates than public high schools.

Of course, charter apologists had many explanations and excuses but they apparently forgot their original claim that they would be far, far better than public schools.

A story by Arianna Prothero and Alex Hardin begins:

”At nearly 1,000 U.S. high schools, the chance of students graduating on time is no better than the flip of a coin. And charter schools—which were born to create more options for students—make up an outsized share of the number of public schools persistently graduating less than half of their students.

“An analysis of federal data by the Education Week Research Center identified 935 public high schools with four-year graduation rates of less than 50 percent in 2016-17, the most recent year available. Of those, 54 percent are charter schools. That’s one-quarter of all U.S. charter high schools, and nearly 3 percent of all public high schools.

“These numbers aren’t just a one-time blip. Many charter schools have suffered from chronically low graduation rates of below 50 percent since 2010-11.

“And the number of charters with low graduation rates could be even larger than the Education Week analysis reveals. That’s because some charter schools were excluded from the federal data set due to student privacy concerns. For its analysis, the Education Week Research Center also removed all schools labeled as “alternative” in the federal data.

“The data undercuts the idea that charters are a better option,” said Robert Balfanz, a Johns Hopkins University researcher who is a national authority on graduation-rate patterns. “If kids go to a charter high school where the norm is not to graduate, it’s not delivering on the promise of creating better, more successful schools for kids in need.”

“But some charter advocates and experts argue that it’s unfair to compare how charter high schools stack up against their traditional school peers when it comes to graduation rates…

”Charter schools were created more than 25 years ago as an alternative to the traditional school district system. Since then, the charter sector has slowly grown to about 7,000 schools educating 3 million students in 43 states and the District of Columbia.

”Underpinning the entire charter movement is the idea that with flexibility to innovate and compete for students, charter schools will deliver a superior education—one that’s tailored to the individual needs of students and parents.

“But with nearly a quarter-million students enrolled in charter high schools with an on-time graduation rate below 50 percent, it calls into question whether the sector is delivering on its mission.”

Well, yes, it does raise that question.

The Edweek coverage was funded by the Walton Family Foundation, which has claimed credit for opening one of every four charters in the nation. The Waltons will not be happy with this story.

A number of charter chains have bragged that 100% of their students are accepted into four-year colleges and universities. What they don’t acknowledge is that they have set a requirement that students cannot graduate unless they have won acceptance into a four-year college or university.

The issue came up recently in Nashville.

Metro education officials are reminding one of the largest charter schools in Nashville it can’t make college acceptance a high school graduation requirement.

LEAD Public Schools brags all seniors in its first five graduating classes at LEAD Academy had been accepted into a four-year college. Part of that could be due to the fact that college acceptance was a requirement in its original charter application.

The office in Metro Schools that oversees charters is still consulting legal experts on whether mandating college acceptance is illegal.

What happens to the students who don’t get accepted into a four-year college? Do they stay in 12th grade for years, or do they drop out or return to the public schools?

There are other charter chains who set this as a requirement? Why? It enables them to brag about their success.

Are these graduation requirements serving the students or burnishing the reputation of the charter chain?

The same question came up recently when José Espinosa, superintendent of a school district in Texas, complained that a charter chain was misleading the public with its claims of a 100% college acceptance rate. He said this was misleading advertising. He wrote:

While 100 percent of charter seniors get accepted to college as required, the public has a right to know the percentage of charter students who didn’t make it to their senior year.

Ed Fuller, Pennsylvania State University professor, found in one of his studies of a particular charter network that when considering the number of students starting in the ninth grade as a cohort, the percentage of charter cohort students who graduated and went on to college was at best 65 percent.

In other words, 35 percent of ninth-graders at a charter network didn’t make it to their graduation….

A correspondent in Texas informed me that there are four charter chains with higher graduation requirements than the state:

Great Hearts
YES Prep

Setting rigorous standards and requiring acceptance into a four-year college weeds out the students who struggle and need extra help.

Gary Rubinstein has a serious problem about people who use data to fib.

He just saw a newspaper article about a KIPP school in New York City where “96%” of the graduates were going to college. This seemed improbable so he did some digging, and of course it wasn’t true.

He writes:

One of the dirtiest tricks played by charter schools is when they claim to have a 100% graduation rate and a 100% college acceptance rate. The first use of this, to my knowledge, was when YES Prep used it to help secure $1 million from Oprah. Over the years, it is very common to see some charter school tout a similar statistic.

When I hear about one of these 100% schools, the first thing I ask is “Is this 100% of the starting cohort, or just the senior class?” It is always just the senior class. Then I ask “How many students are in the senior class?” When the number of graduating seniors is in the 30s, 20s, or even most recently in the case of Success Academy, 16, I ask “How big was the initial cohort?”

In The New York Post the other day, there was an article titled “Bronx charter school sending 96 percent of grads to college.” The school was the one KIPP high school in New York City. According to the article, there were 225 graduating seniors, which, at least, is much bigger than the graduating class of many of these 100% (or 96% in this case) stories.

But 96% of the graduating seniors is not 96% of the original cohort and The Post addresses this by saying “The network said 86 percent of the original freshman class stayed on through their senior year.”

The problem with this statistic is that KIPP is a 5th to 12th grade program, not a 9th to 12th grade program.

So the question is, what percent of the original fifth grade class remained to graduate? Not 96%. Not 86%. Read on.

Why must every statistic be inflated?

Back in the days of Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein, the policy of the city was to close big high schools that had varied programs (e.g., music, the arts, advanced classes in math and science) and replace them with small schools. Almost every large high school in the city was closed. One of them was DeWitt Clinton, which had become a dumping ground for the small schools that did not want students with low test scores, English learners, and students with disabilities. In effect, the school–once known for its excellence–was turned into a graveyard.

Klein and his acolytes touted the New York City Miracle, built on testing, testing, testing, and small schools.

A piece of the architecture fell apart recently at DeWitt Clinton, when teachers leaked that students who never attended class were getting good grades and graduating, based on credit recovery by computer (at home).

This high school is a hooky player’s dream.

At DeWitt Clinton HS in the Bronx, kids who have cut class all semester can still snag a 65 passing grade — and course credit — if they complete a quickie “mastery packet.”

Insisting that students can pass “regardless of absence,” Principal Pierre Orbe has ordered English, science, social studies and math teachers to give “make up” work to hundreds of kids who didn’t show up or failed the courses, whistleblowers said.

“This is crazy!” a teacher told The Post. “A student can pass without going to class!”

The 1,200-student Clinton HS is one of 78 struggling schools in Mayor deBlasio’s “Renewal” program. Last year, 50 percent of seniors graduated, but only 28 percent of the grads had test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help.

The DOE’s academic-policy guide says students “may not be denied credit based on lack of seat time alone.” Passing must be based “primarily on how well students master the subject matter.”

Orbe has taken the policy to a absurd extreme, teachers charge.

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters says that DeWitt Clinton, which is part of Mayor de Blasio’s “Renewal Schools” initiative, has very large classes, some as large as 39. That’s one remedy that the mayor ignored.

By the way, if you want to meet Leonie (and me), we will be at the annual dinner of Class Size Matters tomorrow night in New York City. It is not too late to get a ticket.

Mercedes Dchneider found and posted a wonderful high school graduation speech by an emergency room physician in Indiana.

Dr. Louis Profeta spoke to the graduating class at his alma mater, Borth Central High School in Indianapolis. He told them what a terrible student he had been in high school. He told them how he made the transition from adolescent slacker to ER doctor.

He began like this:

“In kindergarten, I got a prize in the science fair for painting Play-Doh black. I wedged plastic dinosaurs and saber-tooth tigers in it to make it look like the La Brea tar pits. I think it was in 4th grade when I won a ribbon in the Allisonville grade school pancake supper poster contest.

“And those two pinnacle moments pretty much sum up the entirety of my academic accolades in Washington Township schools, including all the way through high school.

“I got an F in high school chemistry, and an F in algebra and a bunch of C’s, a couple D’s and if it weren’t for gym and kings court singers, I doubt I would have gotten any A’s. Any kings court singers here? I was the jester in the madrigal dinner. I did a few other things. I was in junior spec, Reviewing the Situation, 1981 baby. I played trumpet in band — actually I was second to the last trumpet — which means I played exactly two notes in every song. Blaaamp blaaammp. Nobody ever saw my name on some academic kudos report sent out by the school and no parent ever uttered the words:

“Louis Profeta made honor roll, why can’t you?”

“And if I had to apply to college today at Indiana University, I would not get in….

“So years later, after college and medical school and residency, I found my way back practicing emergency medicine in the very same community and township I left and a remarkable thing happened. I started seeing old classmates and their families as patients and they would all say the same thing.

“You’re a doctor? I thought you were stupid. Can I see some ID, a diploma, something like that?””

Read it yourself.