Late Graduates Fare Better Than Dropouts

By Jim Hull

Every year, a number of high school students fail to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas with their classmates. Not all fail to graduate, however. For some, it just takes a little longer.

But do schools get credit for not letting these students drop out? Do they get credit for helping the students stick with it until they earn a diploma? Well, no.

Most state graduation rates only count students who earn a diploma in four years or less. Schools do not get credit for working hard and putting time and resources into ensuring that those who fall behind eventually graduate. And no credit means no incentive for schools to use their limited resources on such students.

It’s just like former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings used to say: “What gets tested gets taught.” When it comes to graduation rates, the students who get counted get the resources.

But schools definitely should get credit, according to Better Late Than Never: Examining Late High School Graduates. The new report by the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education shows that late graduates are more successful after high school than classmates who never receive a diploma. More than that, they are almost as successful as those who graduated on time.

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