— For more than a decade and under the auspices of reform, Indiana has been making dramatic changes to its K-12 schools. It’s added more standardized tests measuring student performance, tied the results to teacher pay and school funding, and changed graduation requirements aimed at improving student achievement. One of the overriding goals has been to get more students through school and out the door with a high school diploma.
It’s worked. Though Indiana changed the way it calculates its graduation rates, the number of students graduating with a high school degree has risen both before and after the change. In 2012, Indiana’s graduation rate was just above 88 percent, up from 76 percent in 2006 when the new graduation-rate measurement went into place.
But increasing the number of high school graduates is not the same as producing more students who are ready for college.
According to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, almost 1 in 3 public high school graduates in the state needs remediation in the basic skills of math, writing and reading at college. Among students who graduate with the state’s Core 40 college-preparatory diploma, about 40 percent are required to take and pay for remedial courses in college – classes that earn them no credit toward graduation but often delay, or derail, their path toward a college degree.
Yet, in all our discussions of college success rates, we look at facts and figures — numbers that don’t give us a clue about the who in these discussions. We can look at socio-economic factors and glean how ethnicity and income can be factored into an equation about which children are less likely to succeed.
The math doesn’t tell us if the economically disadvantaged student was smart. It doesn’t say if someone was there when she got home from school every day, or whether there was a responsible adult present on the weekend.