STEP – System for Tracking Education Performance allows the New York State Department of Education to “track the performance of cohorts of students who enter high school at the same time, regardless of whether they meet the criteria for membership in the school accountability cohort. This tracking will provide more accurate information about student progress in meeting the new graduation requirements and will allow the Department to report performance by date of entry into ninth grade rather than by average grade enrollment.
Also; Schools with grade 7 or higher who do not grant diplomas are responsible for ensuring that students completing their program enroll in a diploma-granting school to complete their secondary education. They must report as dropouts students who complete their program and who do not enroll in and attend a diploma-granting secondary school.”
While superintendents and Board members cite inconclusive data stating students who stay elementary school through eighth grade are more successful academically due to the relationships between and among school staff and peers, actual research by Vaughan Byrnes & Allen Ruby Center for Social Organization of Schools states, “after controlling for school transition and average grade size, there were no discernible differences between K-8 schools and Middle Schools in terms of academic achievement.”
With the emphasis on graduation rates instead of children, the primary reason for reorganizing our schools to fit the K-8 model is for State reporting purposes only.
If students, who are bound to fail, leave or drop out before reaching ninth grade, the dropout data for that student is attributed to the elementary school level and that student is not counted among the ninth grade graduation cohort thus artificially increasing the graduation rate for the district.
Reorganizing to K-8 is not the way to increase graduation rates. The research of Russell Rumberger and Sun Ah Lim shows that “high quality preschool programs and small classes in early elementary school have proven to improve high school graduation rates. Such programs are also cost-effective—they generate two to four dollars in economic benefits for every dollar invested.”
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