How to Improve Graduation Rates

There is no shortage of ideas of how to increase the number of kids who successfully graduate from high school. But when NEA president Lily Eskelsen García visited Rogers High School in Spokane, Washington, she cited its improved graduation rate and called it “a model for the nation.”

As Peter Cook points out today, Rogers isn’t exactly high-achieving. So how did Eskelsen García choose Rogers for a visit? It couldn’t just have been because Debby Chandler, the president of NEA’s National Council for Education Support Professionals, works there.

So what’s the Rogers secret?

And how are they doing this? It’s not a product that this district bought. It’s not more test prep. It really is giving people the time to feel like they’re family … what they’ve discovered here, the magic — the secret sauce — is, you know, we can actually just do stuff that we want to, like this pep rally. Let’s get everybody in the hall and let’s clap for these people that are never recognized, the lunch ladies, and let’s get a limo. The kids loved that. They loved planning it. They loved deciding who was gonna be recognized. And when it comes from — it sounds like a cliché — when it comes from the roots, when it comes from the community, then there’s joy to it. You’re not doing it because someone told you to.

We should applaud the school for teaching the kids appreciation for people who provide services for them. It’s an important attribute to take into their adult lives. But so is mastery of high school math, and apparently four of every five students at Rogers haven’t obtained that.

Standardized tests are misused and overused. But they provide us with information that teachers’ unions are determined to downplay or hide from public view. We should listen to what school employees tell us about students. We should not accept their descriptions as the unvarnished truth.

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