MIA: Haney, Federal Grad Data, and the NCES

The fact that Texas got caught with their pants down and has “enrontized” their federal graduation rates (see ACGR) should not be a surprise.


Dr. Walt Haney, an emeritus Boston College Professor well-known for statistically debunking the Texas and Florida educational miracles, emailed me a response to yesterday’s analysis of the Texas graduation data. Here is what he said:

Julian:   You have done a nice job of deconstructing the recent report on the so-called Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rates which shows Texas to have a relatively good graduation rate compared with other states.  I would like to add a couple points of elaboration and one major caveat on what you say.

You do not mention that the findings from the analyses of were issued not by the National Center for Education Statistics but by another office in the US Department of Education. This is important because the NCES has for decades been the legislatively designated federal agency for collecting and reporting on education statistics.  Why was the NCES not the federal agency that issued the report on the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate results? [They are MIA]  I could venture a few suggestions, but for now I observe simply that there were no names of credible researchers attached to the Dept. of Ed. Report on Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rates, and as far as I know no study using this metric has ever been published in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal.

Texas has a very long history of manipulating education statistics, not just graduation rates but also student classifications, dropout rates and test scores results. For some of this history, see

The myth of the Texas miracle in education. Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 8 Number 41, (August 19, 2000).  http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v8n41/.

For an analysis and comparison of different ways of calculating graduation rates see:

High school graduation rates: Alternative methods and implications. Education Policy Analysis Archives,  Volume 12 Number 55. . (2004, October 15 http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v12n55/

Finally, while I agree that it is deplorable that, under the pressure of ill-conceived high stakes testing, educators and administrators often manipulate data (and to be fair, some ambitious, but dishonest scientists have faked experimental results), far, far worse to my way of thinking is that educators and administrators are actively harming children in order to make ill-conceived  accountability results look better – or even to save their jobs, as Merrow’s recent  Frontline report on Michelle Rhee showed. I do not have time just now to recount all of the examples of such deplorable practices I have documented over the years, save to note that I have examples not just from southern states like Texas, Alabama and Florida, but also from non-southern states like New York. What do I mean by this?

It seems to me there have historically been three ways in which educators and administrators have been actively harming children in order to make things look better:  1) classifying children as special education so they won’t be counted in various tallies of non- special ed students; 2) flunking kids in the grade before high stakes tests are given despite persuasive evidence that flunking kids to repeat grades does little good in the short term and considerable harm in the long term; and 3) encouraging at-risk kids to drop out of school in ways so they will not be counted in either high stakes test results or graduation rates.

In conclusion, there are clearly tens of thousands of students MIA in Texas. Really, its just more of the same as I have discussed the problematic aspects of NCLB extensively in the Accountability and High-Stakes testing forums here on CI. Clearly, equity is a ratiocinative critique of high-stakes testing and accountability. Please don’t let Arne Duncan, Sandy Kress, or anyone else tell you otherwise.

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