Yes, they graduated, but can they read?

Laurie Frost and Jeff Henriques:

Our analyses revealed that over the course of nine years of instruction, the percentage of minority students in the class of 2017 who were proficient in reading or math was very low and changed very little. At no point did more than 20 percent of black students or 30 percent of Hispanic students achieve grade-level proficiency in either content area. No limitation in the tests used or the data obtained — including any cultural bias that may exist in the tests — can explain away these painful results. Any way you slice it, we are failing to give the bulk of our minority students basic academic skills.

And yet 77 percent of Hispanic students and 72.6 percent of black students in the class of 2017 earned a high school diploma. Clearly most of them did so without having grade level skills. But a high school diploma without high school level reading and math skills is of limited value. What does the future hold for these students?

We have long been frustrated by the way the district selectively compiles, analyzes, and shares student data with the community. We see the situation as a decades-old cultural problem in the Doyle Building and do not hold any single individual responsible for it. For too many district administrators and school board members over the 20+ years we have been paying attention, making the district look good has been more important than thoroughgoing honesty about how our students are doing. In fact, we shared our analyses and concerns with the district administration and school board last month, but have received no response from the administration and only one from a board member.

See the Forest: Unpacking the Relationship between Madison (WI) school district graduation rates and student achievement.