Some members of the legislature here in Virginia are suspicious of the graduation rates posted by our schools and they’re not alone. Officials in Maryland and DC don’t think their numbers add up very well either.

Driven by a conviction that graduation rates are widely overstated in the region’s public schools, legislators in Maryland and Virginia are seeking a more accurate count of how many students earn diplomas four years after they enter high school, one of the most vital — but most poorly tracked — indicators in public education. Bills before both legislatures, along with a resolution passed last fall by the D.C. school board, are part of a national effort to adopt a common formula for figuring graduation rates.

Playing with graduation numbers is certainly not a game confined to our local districts. Much of the “Texas miracle” from the 90’s was based on even more statistical magic that unraveled pretty quickly when people took a closer look at the numbers.

But there’s really a bigger problem here than just reporting the right numbers. Do you really want to hear a school official say “Sometimes they just sort of drop off the radar.” when referring to a student?

That’s a person being lost, not a UFO.

graduation rates, statistics