States Sugar-Coat Graduation, Teacher Data, Studies Find
By Pamela M. Prah, Staff Writer
Half of the states are unwilling or unable to report how many students are graduating from high school and a handful of states have failed to provide any information about their teachers' qualifications even though federal law requires states to provide such data, two new studies released Monday (12/22) show.
Louisiana, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina and Tennessee did not report any data to the U.S. Department of Education regarding teacher qualifications as required by the No Child Left Behind education law, the Washington, D.C., based Education Trust said in Telling the Whole Truth (or Not) About Highly Qualified Teachers.
Some states also are fudging the numbers and presenting a rosier picture of their high school graduation rates, the Trust said. Wyoming and Rhode Island reported high school graduation rates that matched closely with calculations from independent researchers, but California, North Carolina and Indiana missed the mark, the Trust said in Telling the Whole Truth (Or Not) About High School Graduation. One of the reasons for the discrepancies is that some states do not track or count high school dropouts.
The group faulted the U.S. Department of Education for lax oversight. "The U.S. Department has failed to provide the leadership, guidance and enforcement that would have produced better data," said Ross Wiener, policy director for the Trust. The Trust is funded, in part, by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the same foundation that funds Stateline.org.
The U.S. Department of Education announced Dec. 19 it has asked the National Institute of Statistical Sciences to study the way high school dropouts are reported and make recommendations by spring 2004.
"There is no question that we must focus our efforts on helping students graduate from high school," U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige said in a prepared statement. "One of the first things we need to do is look at the varying definitions, standards and tracking systems throughout the country to gain a better understanding of the problem so that we can tackle it head-on. I know that the experts on this panel will help us do that, and I look forward to their report," the secretary said.
The department said Dec. 22 it strongly disagreed with the two reports. "We have worked diligently, conscientiously and daily with the states on their data collection efforts. We mean business: no state has gotten a pass, and we have enforced these provisions in the most direct possible way by placing conditions on states' funding if their data was missing or incomplete. We are monitoring the states to be sure they meet the requirements set on their grant awards," Acting Deputy Secretary Gene Hickok said in a statement.