We Need Benchmarks for Graduation Rates

by Jason Fertig

If I told you that a business had an annual turnover rate of 50 percent, would you think that business is run well? What if I told you that this business was a fast-food restaurant? Without benchmarks, such statistics can lead to various interpretations. 

With that analogy in mind, on the NAS site I argue for an honest discussion on graduation-rate benchmarks. 

At the most basic level of debate, a high graduation rate can signal good teaching or low rigor. A low rate can signal bad teaching or high rigor. Regardless of where one stands on this issue, what is important is that this discussion takes place, because without a valid benchmark, drawing conclusions from a graduation rate of 45 percent for a certain group in a certain school is nothing more than a Potemkin Village.

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