Public High School Graduation Rates: Newark City and the State of New Jersey

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Public High School Graduation Rates: Newark City and the State of New Jersey Public high school graduation rates can be used as a tool to measure the effectiveness of a particular education program. However, choosing a formula that accurately reflects the strength and weaknesses of a high school has proven to be quite difficult and even controversial. In 2010, the Newark Public School district reported a 55 percent graduation rate among Newark City high schools (Newark Public Schools, pg 4). However, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie challenges the NPS’s findings. Christie argues that, “The Newark City graduation rate is 29 percent”(Christie 4.29). Both claims, stemming from low Newark City graduation rates, seem to conflict with the 94.7 percent graduation rate reported by the State of New Jersey in 2010 (NJPS: Fact Sheet).These inconsistencies indicate that the different ways of interpreting graduation rates may be exploited to reflect the interests of a person or group. Because of this, it is important to analyze and interpret the graduation rates reported to ensure that the claims are an accurate representation of the data. New Jersey Governor Christie’s argument that, “For a young man or woman who is entering the ninth grade in Newark this year, they have a 29 percent graduation rate,” may be construed as misleading (Christie 5/1/2012). The argument does not claim that only 29 percent of Newark freshman will graduate; rather, it suggests that only 29 percent of the current freshman class will graduate within four years and also pass the High School Proficiency Assessment (NPS Vision). Understandably, Newark Public Schools, representing the Newark City High Schools, responded to the Governor’s claim by interpreting the data themselves. The NPS claimed that, “55 percent of Newark Freshman will graduate in four years” (NPS Vision) While these claims are radically different, they stem from the analysis and interpretation of the same data set. (NJDOE: Graduate 2009-2010). Because the same dataset is used, it is possible to make an unbiased judgment about each claim. Through careful analysis of the raw data, It will become clear whether the reported graduation rates are an accurate or misleading representation of the dataset.

In 2010, there were 2,417 reported graduates from Newark City Public High Schools (NJOE: Graduates 2009-2010). However, from the time they entered as freshman, 402 students in the class of 2010 had dropped-out (NJOE: Dropout 1997-2010). According to Governor Chris Christie and the New Jersey Department of Education have both recognized the “Leaver Rate” as the official high school graduation rate of New Jersey (Christie 6/1/2012). The Leaver Rate, which was created by the National Center for Education Statistics, allowed districts to report their graduation rate to the state by looking at the reported graduates in the current year out of a cohort of those graduates plus the reported drop out from previous years” (Christie 6/1/2012) Districts were required to report overall numbers to the state each year but were not required to account for individuals. (Christie 6/1/2012) When the Leaver Rate formula is calculated using those specific credentials, the graduation rate is 40% [ALLHSPA/(TOTALGRAD+DRPOUTS)] = [1133/(2417+402)] (NJOE: Dropout Data 1997-2010) (NJOE: Graduates Data 1997-2010) (Christie 6/1/2012). This raises the question that: If the leaver rate is used by the New Jersey Department of Education and it is used to calculate the graduation rate, why does Governor Christie claim that the graduation rate is 29 percent? The answer is the formula. While Governor Christie and the NJDOE both report using the leaver rate, the formula being used is actually a modified leaver rate formula. (NPS)The Newark Public School District, in response to Governor Christie’s claim that Newark has graduation rate of only 29 percent, calculated the graduation rate themselves (NPS: Graduation Rate 2010). Some...
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