Boosted Pass/Graduation Rates?

An earlier post included some interesting Richmond data.  For instance:

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Students must pass those End of Course (“EOC”) tests to obtain “verified credits” toward the graduation requirements

The state EOC numbers are high, compared to the 8th grade rates; the Richmond numbers are unbelievably high. 

There are (at least) two ways the pass rates could improve between middle and high school:

  • The high school dropouts leave behind a group of better performing students;
  • The EOC tests are easier or are scored less rigorously than the middle school tests.

We already know about Richmond’s shocking dropout rate so let’s do a thought experiment on the 2018 data:

  • Assume the cohort dropout rate of 20%;
  • Assume that the none of the (soon to be) dropouts passed the 8th grade tests;
  • Assume that the non-dropouts in high school (from earlier years) passed the EOC tests at the same rate as the 2018 8th graders did the 2018 8th grade tests.

That is, assume the 8th grade pass rate is and has been the average of 80% of some higher number and 20% of zero; then assume the EOC pass rate will be equal to that higher number.  You’ll recognize that this is a very rough approximation but, in light of the reasonably constant state 8th grade and EOC and Richmond 8th grade numbers, not an outrageous one.

A little back-of-the-envelope arithmetic calculates a dropout-boosted EOC pass rate of 64.8% in reading vs. the 70.9  actual and 52.1% in math, vs. the actual 59.2. 

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It looks like getting rid of those dropouts produces a nice boost.  No wonder Richmond is so casual about its horrendous dropout rate.

The state data are consistent with the same phenomenon but the lower dropout rate (5.50%) gives less dramatic results for the calculated EOC numbers.

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Even so, these extreme assumptions are not nearly enough to explain the actual EOC pass rates. 

If dropouts don’t explain the entire pass rate differences, we are left with the Board of “Education” messing with the EOC tests to boost the graduation rates.  For sure, we know that the Board sets the cut scores [@ p.130].  A boost of about five points (huge, in SOL terms) in both subjects would explain the state data and would go a long way toward rationalizing the Richmond numbers.

Of course, this speculation doesn’t prove anything.  But we already know that such manipulation of the data would align with other data engineering that makes the schools (that the Board supervises) look better than they really are.  See this and this and this and this and this and this.  Also see this, suggesting that the Board cares more about the more affluent divisions.

We’ve no direct way to test the notion1 but these data certainly suggest a simple pattern: EOC pass rates are boosted at the state level by the dropouts and by VBOE’s manipulation of the SOL test scoring; the EOC scores in Richmond are similarly boosted by the rigged scoring and inflated even more because of the terrible dropout rate.

Your tax dollars at “work.”

1.  VDOE does have the information but don’t waste any time waiting for them to disclose it.