Graduation/Suspension Rates/ The Myth of Relevance

Mar 13, 2019 by

Student suspensions have been cut in half over the last half-dozen years. But it is universally realized that student discipline has deteriorated badly during that time. Graduation rates have risen, yet it’s no secret that academic achievement is heading toward the cellar. 

Is there a contradiction? Does this make sense?  Only if you’re wise to the priorities of the bureaucracy and its school-based enforcers, the principals.

Education is all about “optics” these days. Perception is manipulated by shrewd public relations techniques and reputations and careers sink or swim based on it.  Market research has established that the news-consuming public has a short attention span and is addicted to sound-bites and their print equivalent. Sophistication is in short supply and most peoples’ analytic skills have calcified from lack of use. 

The public almost voluntarily submits to being spoon-fed and misled.

Judging educational performance on shoddy criteria in the name of accountability is a sport of executives. Since suspension and graduation rates are considered reliable indicators of the quality of schools, although the linkage is mythical, the word gets out from on high: “Tell them what they want to hear. Make it happen. Get those suspension rates down and the graduation rates up!”

Principals don’t want to get poor performance reviews so they engineer the data to create a rosy picture.  Students don’t get suspended no matter what they do, and therefore the numbers drop and all is copacetic.  Kids get to graduate simply because they didn’t formally dis-enroll, and the same sweet lie is perpetuated.  The bosses look good and when they’re covered, it creates a “high tide that raises all boats.”

Except that of whistle-blowers.  They are protected in theory but sacrificed in practice.

The perpetuation of mayoral control is once again on the Albany agenda. It should be extended. There’s plenty of evidence to make a solid case.  But suspension and graduation figures should be besides the point. And there is the larger issue of the extent to which the DOE can be trusted with the compilation and categorization of  data and the determination of its pertinence,But even “independent”  watchdogs are a fickle breed.

And there will always be invisible pressures to ensure that no truth about education that emanates from official sources in this city can be pure and unvarnished.

Ron Isaac



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