A-F School Rankings Draw Local Pushback

As states overhaul their accountability systems under the new federal K-12 law, officials in some are pushing to replace or revamp A-F grading for schools, which supporters tout as an easy way to convey to the public how schools stack up.

In recent years, at least 18 states have adopted some version of a system that relies mostly on standardized-test scores and graduation rates to generate letter-grade report cards, similar to the ones students receive throughout the school year. Legislation is pending in a handful of states to join that group.

But in some states that already have them, A-F systems have received fierce backlash from local superintendents and school board members. They complain that the letter grades oversimplify student success or shortfalls, increase pressure to pay attention to tests, ignore school quality factors other than test scores, and demoralize teachers and parents.

Full story of pushback on A-F grading in schools at Education Week

New Research Shows Nearly Half of American Parents Underestimate the Harm of School Absences

A student who misses just two days of school each month — 18 days total in the year — is considered to be chronically absent. However, many parents don’t realize that, even when excused or understandable, absences add up and can greatly impact a child’s education. In the United States, more than 6 million children are chronically absent from school each year.

New research released today by the Ad Council found that an overwhelming majority (86%) of parents understand their child’s school attendance plays a big role in helping them graduate from high school. However, nearly half (49%) of parents believe that it is okay for their children to miss three or more days of school per month – and that they won’t fall behind academically if they do. In reality, missing just two days of school per month makes children more likely to fall behind and less likely to graduate.

Full story of student absence education impact at ed.gov

States Continue to Improve Graduation Rates, Particularly for Underserved Students

New preliminary data released today by the U.S. Department of Education shows that states continue to increase high school graduation rates and narrow the gap for traditionally underserved students, including low-income students, minority students, students with disabilities and English learners.

The report is an important first look at preliminary graduation rates reported by states for the 2013-14 school year. The National Center for Education Statistics is expected to release final graduation rate data – including the nation’s newest graduation rate – in coming months. The nation has posted record graduation rates for the last two years, with the highest rate ever of 81 percent announced in March and improvement across all student subgroups.

Full story of improving graduation rates at ed.gov

From ‘Dropout Crisis’ To Record High, Dissecting The Graduation Rate

In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama had some sure-fire applause lines: “More of our kids are graduating than ever before” and “Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high.”

Which raised some interesting questions: “Is that really true?” and “Why?” and “How do we know?” and “So what?”

A seed was planted that grew into our project this week examining that number. Our reporting shows many of the individual stories behind a single statistic: 81 percent, the current U.S. graduation rate.

But in the course of pulling this project together, our team fell into a rabbit hole over something that doesn’t often get attention: the origin of the statistic itself. It turns out to be a fascinating story, and not just for data wonks. It’s a story of collaboration across the political aisle, heroic efforts and millions of dollars spent by state governments, and dogged researchers uncovering new insights that arguably changed the lives of tens of thousands of young people.

Full story on the dropout crisis at NPR

Raising Graduation Rates With Questionable Quick Fixes

To many, 81 percent is a success story. It’s the nation’s all-time-high rate for high school graduation in 2013, the most recent year of federal data.

But the NPR Ed Team and reporters from member stations around the country have been digging into that number and found it’s more complicated.

Not all the news here is good.

Yesterday, we took you to the state with the highest graduation rate — Iowa — to see what it’s doing to keep at-risk students in school: free day care, an in-school food bank, small classes and flexible hours.

Full story and audio on graduation rates, visit NPR

U.S. High School Graduation Rate Hits New Record High

U.S. students are graduating from high school at a higher rate than ever before, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. The nation’s high school graduation rate hit 81 percent in 2012-13, the highest level since states adopted a new uniform way of calculating graduation rates five years ago.

“America’s students have achieved another record-setting milestone,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “We can take pride as a nation in knowing that we’re seeing promising gains, including for students of color. This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country, and these improvements are thanks to the hard work of teachers, principals, students and families.”

Full story of record breaking high school graduate rate at ed.gov

Six Months of PROGRESS

Six months ago, the Department of Education launched a new blog, PROGRESS, to highlight innovative ideas, promising practices, and lessons learned through K-12 education reforms across the country.

Incredible work is happening throughout the U.S. in schools, districts, and states to improve teaching and learning, and, as Secretary Duncan has pointed out, the best ideas do not come from Washington, but from individuals in the field working to improve outcomes for students.

PROGRESS has focused on showcasing the exciting transformations that are taking place in classrooms and communities from the perspective of students, teachers, principals, and local leaders on the ground. It has featured states and districts that are actively preparing their students for college and careers upon graduation, ensuring that educators are receiving the kind of high-quality support and opportunities they need to be effective, and transforming systems and structures so that every student can succeed.

Full story of the new blog PROGRESS at ed.gov

Building an education nation

By Tom Brokaw

Politics On EducationThink of American education as a house of many rooms, each with a distinct function but taken as a whole, this house is shelter against the winds of change buffeting the world and threatening our future.

Any objective analysis of that shelter comes to the same conclusion: we have work to do to be sure we’re secure and able to hold our own against whatever this new global climate sends our way.

That’s the unsettling news. The good news? Work is under way, from the most remote school districts in rural America, to the inner city of our largest urban areas.

Standards and expectations are being raised and tested; new teaching techniques are being systematically measured and implemented; new kinds of schools are being constructed and politicians from the White House to the village green are being held accountable for their commitment to education.

Full story at Star Telegram

School Nurse: It’s Not OK to Give Teens Alcohol for Prom and Graduation

By Mary Burch, RN

Prom and graduation should be a time of pure joy for high school seniors and the people who love them. But every year, this season can also be a time of sadness for too many families. That’s because along with these important milestones come many opportunities for underage drinking and driving.

Each year, communities across the country mourn the deaths of teenagers involved in a car crash that resulted from underage drinking at a prom or graduation party. A survey of more than 2,500 high school juniors and seniors conducted in 2010 found that 90 percent believed their peers are more likely to drink and drive on prom night and 79 percent believe the same is true of graduation night. However, only 29 percent of teens say that driving on prom night is very dangerous; 25 percent believe the same is true for graduation night.

Full story at DrugFree.org