There’s more to graduation rate story

By DEMETRIUS THOMPSON,

Many of you readers might have heard some of the accusations against the state’s education administration, including state superintendent Carey Wright.

Some keen-eyed reporters in the state, including Charlie Smith, editor of one or our sister papers, The Columbia Progress, have unearthed questionable practices, including cronyism regarding contracts, Wright’s own annual salary, (which is calculated to be the highest of any education superintendent in the nation) as well as the ongoing battle regarding the potential Jackson Public School District takeover. Smith recently reported that 19 percent of the state’s high school graduates did not pass one or more of the subject-area tests last year.

In past years, that would have meant they would not have been eligible to receive a diploma, but in 2015, the state Board of Education decided to stop requiring students to demonstrate sufficient knowledge in the core subjects of Algebra I, U.S. history, Biology and English II before they were able to earn a diploma.

That change has allowed the state’s graduation rate to improve from 74.5 percent in 2014 to 82.3 percent in 2016. In an increasingly competitive global economy where it takes a bachelor’s degree to even compete for most jobs, an increased high school graduation rate is definitely something to be happy about, but it doesn’t tell the whole story of how a school district is performing and the future prospects of its students.

I first noticed this after looking at the top 10 high schools for graduation for 2016. Newton County School District was ranked 17th in the state for 4-year graduation rates. NCSD also backs up its high graduation rate by being a solid B district, which can’t be said for some of the districts in the top for graduation rates such as the East Jasper Consolidated School District.

East Jasper had some of the poorest MAP scores in the state, with only 22.7 percent of students scoring proficient. Performing even worse was the Holly Springs District where only 48.2 percent of the students even passed the MAP exams, even though Holly Springs had the third best 4-year graduation rate in the state in 2016.

Another example where graduation rates don’t’ tell the whole story is the Union Public School District which was rated as an A district based on its MAP scores in 2016 but only had a 4-year graduation rate of 73.8 percent.

Even in the best educated states, every single student doesn’t graduate with a great source of skills and knowledge, and it’s unrealistic to think that would happen in Mississippi. But taxpayers, especially those with children and grandchildren who attend public schools, should be assured that students are being adequately prepared for the future.