Yesterday, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings spoke in Columbia about the new requirements for reporting graduation rates. Under the new federal rules, states will be required to uniformly report graduation rates, and provide data on the individual student demographics.
Parents will be glad to hear about the opportunity to objectively learn how their local schools compare to public schools around the country, but state education officials are predictably unenthusiastic.
Already 80% of South Carolina public schools failed to meet “Adequate Yearly Progress” goals in 2008, and the new regulations would impose even more goals for schools to meet. Rex has his hands full trying to explain away testing and graduation rate failures, and the addition of new progress goals would only make his agenda of excuses more difficult. This year Rex has done just about everything possible to do away with the assessment measures that show the ineffectiveness and failure of his administration. Replacing the PACT with a new, even more insipid PASS Test was a start. Now Rex is begging the General Assembly to get rid of all ‘absolute’ and ‘improvement’ ratings for local public schools.
For all Rex’s parading around the state’s “high standards,” he seems remarkably eager to undermine them.
Put simply, school performance does not come first with SC education bureaucrats; keeping parents in the dark about how their public schools measure up to schools across the nation is first priority, and Rex’s actions show that.
This shameful placing of the bureaucracy above the children can be seen in the SC Department of Education’s misrepresentation of the number of children who graduate high school.
In 2007, the SDE reported a high school graduation rate of over 70%. This number was bad enough to make give South Carolina public schools the distinction of having the nation’s worst reported graduation rate, but the real number is far more disturbing. A 2008 report by Dr. Harold Long -formerly of the Strom Thurmond Institute- shows that calculating the actual number of 9th graders who receive high school diplomas four years later results in a 49% graduation rate!
Ironically, when Secretary Spellings spoke of the “silent epidemic” of minority children who do not graduate high school, she was talking to the people who are as responsible for it as anyone in the nation. Instead of responding to this need, stability-loving bureaucrats just want to make sure no one points the finger at them.
While this kind of attitude dominates and directs the public education system in South Carolina, parents and taxpayers can expect to see no real improvement or reform. Only when schools and teachers are truly accountable to parents for their performance will we start to see change.