Bad news on graduation gap

The Education Department released new high school graduation data November 26, and the news isn’t good. Overall, Minnesota doesn’t do well, with an overall 77 percent four-year graduate rate placing us in the lower 50 percent of all states. Even worse, Minnesota has the biggest graduation gap, with 35 percentage points separating the African American graduation rate of 49 percent from the white graduation rate of 84 percent.  Only Nevada has a lower African American graduation rate than Minnesota.

That’s really depressing news. It’s also inconsistent with previous years’ reports on overall graduation rates. I’m not sure what that inconsistency means. The Department of Education press release says this is “the first year for which all states used a common, rigorous measure” to report four-year graduation rates.

Is the AFGR (averaged freshman graduation rate) the right measure to use? What about the students who graduate in four years and a summer? Or five years? Or decide they hate school and go get a GED instead of a diploma?

I’d like to believe that some other measure is a better reflection of the job we do in educating Minnesota students. I’d like to look at achievement, or college attendance, or six-year graduation numbers. But one fact remains: No matter how you slice and dice the numbers, Minnesota is still failing to educate African American students.

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