National High School Graduation Rate Climbs

The national high school graduation rate has improved notably, with 78.2 percent of public school students receiving a diploma in 2009-10, up from 75.5 percent the year before, according to the newest figures released from the National Center for Education Statistics Tuesday.

In 2005-06, the rate was 73.4 percent, and in 2000-01, it was 71.7 percent.

The new NCES report reflects the best performance in decades by high school students. It is the highest graduation rate since 1969-70, when the figure was 78.7 percent. Since 1972, when the dropout rate was 14.6 percent, it has steadily improved, falling to 11 percent in 1992 and 3.4 percent for the class of 2010.

There were 38 states with an increase of one percentage point or more, in the most recent analysis. Overall, 3.1 million students received a diploma in 2009-10, the report, “Public School Graduates and Dropouts from the Common Core of Data: School Year 2009-10” finds.

Student success varied widely, with an “averaged freshman graduation rate” of 57.8 percent in Nevada and 91.4 percent in Vermont. AFGR looks at on-time graduation rates for freshmen over four years.

The NCES analysis shows about 514,000 or 3.4 percent of public school students in grades 9-12 dropped out of the Class of 2010. That is a decline from the previous year, when a 4.1 percent dropout rate was reported. The states struggling the most with dropout rates were Mississippi (7.4 percent) and Arizona (7.8 percent), while New Hampshire has just 1.2 percent of students quitting and Idaho 1.4 percent. (Read more.)

Via Caralee Adam, Education Week.

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Consortium Releases Technology Guidelines for Common-Core Tests

One of the two consortia designing tests for the Common Core State Standards has released new guidance on the minimum technology standards states will need to meet to give those tests, beginning in 2014-15.

The Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers said the guidance, unveiled late Friday afternoon, is meant to provide direction to states and districts on the extent to which current technology meets testing standards, or whether upgrades will be required.

The document offers both “minimum specifications,” that would satisfy the consortium’s tech guidelines at least through 2014-15, and “recommended” ones, which would be expected to meet the state group’s standards through the 2018-19 school year.

Earlier this month, the other group leading states toward the development of tests to match the Common Core, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, released its own list of technology requirements and recommendations for 2014-15.

The new PARCC guidelines are “very similar” to the Smarter Balanced requirements, said Susan Van Gundy, associate director for assessment technology at Achieve, an organization that is managing the partnership consortium’s work.

One of the requirements focuses on test security. All devices used during the tests—whether laptops, netbooks, tablets—and operating systems must have the capability to “lock down” and temporarily disable features that present a security risk while exams are being given. Certain features would also need to be controlled during test administration, including unlimited Internet access, certain types of cameras, screen captures, e-mail, and instant-messaging, the requirements say. (Read more.)

Via Sean Cavanagh, Education Week.

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More Students Are Taking Community-College Courses While in High School

Nicole Perez spends her school days at a local high school here, but when the 17-year-old senior steps into English class she is dipping her toes into college.

Ms. Perez is one of a growing number of students taking community-college courses at their high schools. These “dual-enrollment” classes are a low- or no-cost way for students to gain college credits, helping smooth their way to a college degree.

“It’s a little more work, but I actually like that,” said Ms. Perez, who hopes the credits will save her time and money next year, when she plans to attend a four-year university.

The growing cost of college, rising student debt and a weak economy have prompted a rethinking of the role of community colleges. In 2009, President Barack Obama made community colleges a big part of his plan to return the U.S. to its perch as the nation with the most higher-education degrees per capita by 2020.

High-achieving students long have been able to earn college credits by taking advanced-placement classes—such as history, chemistry and literature—that prepare them for an exam. The new community-college classes are designed to boost a broader group of students to the college gate.

By joining with local high schools, some community colleges are designing remedial classes to be sure that students are college-ready. They also are offering more advanced classes such as the one Ms. Perez is taking.

These classes use the same curriculum, grading and testing as those at the community colleges, said Adam Lowe, who directs the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, a professional group for dual-enrollment programs. <Read more.  May require paid subscription.>

Via Caroline Porter, The Wall Street Journal.

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A Crisis of Unprepared Freshmen

Shakira Lockett was a pretty good student in elementary, middle and high school. The Miami-Dade County native says she typically earned AS and BS in English classes.

Math was always something of a struggle for Lockett. Still, she got through her high school exit exam with a passing grade and went on to graduate from Coral Gables Senior High School in 2008.

She went straight to Miami Dade College. Then, something unexpected happened: She flunked the college placement exams in all three subjects – reading, writing and math. That didn’t mean she couldn’t attend the school; all state and community colleges in Florida have an open-door policy, which means everyone is accepted. But it did mean she had to take remedial courses before she could start college-level work.

“When they told me I had to start a Reading 2 and Reading 3 class, I was like, ‘Serious?’” Lockett said. “Because I’ve always been good at reading.”

Lockett, who is now 22, spent a year-and-a half taking remedial classes before she could start her first college-level class to count toward her degree in mass communication and journalism. The seven extra courses cost her $300 each.

Lockett found having to take remedial classes discouraging. “It makes you feel dumb,” Lockett said. “And you ask yourself, ‘Is there something wrong with me?’” (Read more.)

Via Sarah Gonzalez, McNelly Torres and Lynn Weddell, FCIR.

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Rural District Nurtures Dual-Enrollment Effort

Brittney Crews took so many dual-credit courses at rural Halifax County High in South Boston, Va., that she received an associate degree weeks before her 2011 high school graduation ceremony.

“It helps you go ahead and start your life instead of having to stay so long in school,” said Ms. Crews, 19, who now attends Jefferson College of Health Sciences in Roanoke, Va.

Ms. Crews’ situation isn’t unique for Halifax County High. Nearly one-fifth of its 407 seniors earned associate degrees by the time they graduated last school year, and 91 percent finished high school with a college transcript. The approximately 1,700-student school has become a leader in dual-enrollment participation in the state for its emphasis on dual-enrollment courses.

Halifax County High has accomplished that despite its rural location, and it did so through a number of efforts, such as encouraging high school teachers to become college instructors, creating satellite sites for dual-enrollment courses, and raising its number of student participants by offering college-level classes in career and technical education areas.

The Halifax County district, which enrolls about 5,900 students, expanded its dual-enrollment portfolio under the leadership of its former superintendent, Paul Stapleton, who wanted to see more of his students go to college.

“It was like most things in education,” he said. “If there’s a need and you’re in a rural area, you try to solve a problem. You know no one is going to come to your rescue.”

Students in dual enrollment earn both high school and college credit for taking the same course. More than 70 percent of public high schools offered dual-credit courses about 10 years ago, according to the most recent available figures from the National Center for Education Statistics. But rural schools often face difficulties in offering such courses because of their distance from colleges and the high cost of transportation. (Read more.)

Via Diette Courrégé, Education Week.

Posted in Postsecondary (13-18), Secondary (9-12), Students. Tags: . Comments Off on Rural District Nurtures Dual-Enrollment Effort