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January 21, 2010

HARBESON: It’s time to get deeper with graduation numbers

If you were a business owner with eight stores and only two of them reached your minimum sales goal for the year, would you say it was a success?

What if you were in charge of a walking program created to help people complete a fitness walk and two out of eight people who participated reached the mileage goal, would you consider your program a success?

If you were a football coach and your record was 2-8, would you consider that season a success? I mean, if you’re not IU of course.

No matter how you look at it, two out of eight just doesn’t sound so great, does it? Yet this is how many Clark County public high schools reached Indiana’s 90 percent graduation rate goal. I have no idea whether that goal is reasonable or not, but government officials are the ones who set it so I assume they think it’s within reach.

So what does it mean that most of the county’s schools didn’t make the grade? Is it just a number to add to all the other numbers that really don’t mean much because they are without consequences?

Even one school who reached the goal doesn’t feel like the percentage really tells them what they need to know. Before the official graduation rate was released from the State Department of Education, Clarksville officials said their reported graduation rate of 92.6 percent doesn’t “reveal the whole truth.”

Clarksville officials felt it was important to separate out two categories included in the percentage: those who graduated on waivers and those who transferred to homeschooling.

A student who graduates with a waiver has enough credits to graduate but did not pass the State Graduation Qualifying Exam. Teachers in the subject area the student failed on the exam can certify the student as qualified in that subject.

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