There's some interesting data here that takes a look at high schools beyond reported graduation rates. I'll admit that I'm not an expert on calculating graduation rates, and the subject seems fairly complex. But what the data indicate is that a school can claim 100% of seniors have graduated and claim that legitimately without that being the whole story. But beneath the surface, it might be that the graduating class of 50 was actually a class of 100 when they were freshmen. There are many reasons a student who entered as a freshman might not be there as a senior, and I don't want to speculate. But this is aligned with anecdotes I've heard from friends of mine who teach at charter schools. These teachers are concerned that students who most need successful schools are the ones being left behind because they are removed from the school for a variety of infractions.
On one hand this may show that there are students who are graduating from these schools and are getting a good education in a structured environment. And if students are kicked out for failing to meet expectations, other students may be more likely to meet those expectations because they know there are consequences. I don't take issue with a school's ability to discipline students as appropriate.
However, it goes without saying that a school operating under this model should see increasing test scores regardless of learning. If problem students, who are more likely to struggle academically, are leaving at the end of each year, successful students will make up a growing percentage of the school's population.
So? I don't know. It means that graduation rates or proficiency rates, which are currently widely discussed in the media, should be viewed warily. We should look for raw numbers. Beyond that, look to compare apples to apples by studying the 9th and 10th grade results (for example) of students who spent both years in a given school. That gives a more meaningful snapshot of the school's ability to teach students.
I want to go back to a question I asked previously. How do schools reach the last 1% of students, who have serious problems with investment, behavior, and academic skills? I've been thinking about alternative schools, because I knew a teacher who taught in one. This teacher was randomly chosen, as were the others, to teach in this school. They were given no additional resources. Their administration had no particular experience in working with an alternative population. It was, in this teacher's opinion, a holding area for students no other school put up with any longer. So, from what I've seen (I have visited this school myself), alternative schools aren't hugely helpful. Do any readers have experience in alternative schools? Share anecdotes, positive and negative, if you're comfortable.