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Dismissing the Validity of Graduation Rates

My colleague Catherine Gewertz over at High School Connections has an interesting post about a conversation she had with Ron Montoya, the principal of Valley High School in Las Vegas, which was named a "high-achieving exemplary turnaround" school by Nevada even though it has a graduation rate of 55 percent.

The principal says that the graduation rate is inaccurate. One reason for the inaccuracy, he says, is that many of his school's students are Mexicans who go back and forth across the border, and are hard to track.

That's not the first time I've heard an educator give that argument to explain in part why a school or school district has a low graduation rate. An educator in Brownsville, Texas, gave the same argument, that kids move to Mexico and the school district can't track whether they graduate or not, when I inquired why the Brownsville Independent School District has a graduation rate of 53.2 percent (For ELLs, it is 26.8 percent). The Brownsville district won the 2008 Broad Prize for Urban Education.

At the same time, like the principal of Valley High, the educator in Brownsville stressed the importance of continuing to try to prevent students from dropping out.

I post the following question to those of you who work in schools with a large Mexican immigrant population: Do you believe that the movement of students between the United States and Mexico is distorting the validity of your school's or school district's graduation rate?

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