In Alabama, graduation rate is the “additional academic indicator” component of AYP. As mid-summer approaches, officials in all too many schools anxiously await the results to see if they have a “green cell” or “red cell” for graduation rate. This post is about taking the mystery out of those results. Furthermore, this post argues that we can, and we must, accurately predict the percentage of our students who will graduate on time while they are still with us and we ca do something about their progress.

 When summer 2012 rolls around, the graduation rate being measured will be that of the Class of 2011. That graduation has already happened. Those figures are in the books. Waiting until summer 2012 to find out the graduation rate for the Class of 2011 would be akin to waiting until March to find out if your team won the Super Bowl! Hang on, we will revisit this football analogy later.

The problem is that the formula for figuring the graduation rate is Greek to many. Let’s take the mystery out of it. On the Free Resources page of my website, you will find tools which will compute your graduation rate. Keep in mind the formula changed, so we have upper classes using the original formula and the lower classes using the newer one. Tools for both are on the Free Resources page. You will also find a “Help” document for the new formula. You find the tool for the original formula is password protected. Use Principal (case sensitive) for the password. The password is required each time you go to open this spreadsheet.

Did We Win?
Image the gun sounds ending the game. The teams start to leave the field. The head coach taps the referee on the shoulder and asks, “Did we win?” Sounds crazy, right? But that’s exactly what happens because too many people simply do not know how to calculate the graduation rate.

What’s Our Game Plan?
You goal is to graduate every student, and do so on time, right? That’s all you need to know about a plan to achieve the graduation rate you need for AYP. Pretty simple.

On the football field, the aim is to score as many points as you can and keep the other team from scoring. That’s all you need to know, right? Or is it?

If there are 45 seconds left in the game and you have the ball on your own 40 yard line, wouldn’t you like to know if you are ahead by 7 or down by 3? Aren’t you going to handle things entirely differently depending on the score? You need to know a lot more than your aim is to score lots of points and keep the other team from scoring!

If it’s February and you are looking at missing graduation rate by 2 students, aren’t you going to handle things much differently than if your prediction was that you were going to be 15 students to the good? And if it’s February, you can still do something about those students. Waiting until the year is over, just like waiting until the game is over, is too late to impact the score.

With the tools on the Free Resources page, Alabama schools will know where they stand with the students they still have. When the requirements require not only for the cohort to make graduation rate, but also every subgroup within that cohort to make the goal, you will still be able to predict your outcome, and if you don’t like what you see, know how many students, and which students, to make your goal.

Graduation rate does not have to be a mystery. Know the score now. Adjust your game plan. Make it look easy.