The On-Base Percentage of High Schools

“We’ve got to end this rampant dishonesty about graduation rates,” said Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust, said earlier this year. “If we are going to prepare students for the challenges of college, work, and life, we need to transform our high schools.

Bravo! But we have a two-tier problem on our hands. One is how many urban 9th graders ever get to walk across the state and get a high school diploma. The other is that most of the kids who do walk across that stage start college and never finish.

And let’s point the finger of blame squarely at ourselves, shall we? MATCH School, like many small high-poverty high schools (often charters), touts our 100% rate of college admissions. While true, the reality is that stat by itself is not meaningful.

The real question should be: of a particular high school’s graduates, how many actually earn a college degree?

Nobody knows.

Calling Ed Trust: Build a database where, every year, all universities send you the number of its graduates from each sending high school. Then you compile the ultimate college graduation rate of each high school in the nation.

No doubt some schools where teachers truly pushed the kids academically would stick out for well-deserved praise, whereas some diploma mills where kids were socially promoted and sent to college unable to plod through a dense Intro To Archaeology textbook, or unable to write a coherent essay, would be cold-busted.

Bonus: Such a database would create a chance for a Thernstroms versus Sizer smackdown, on No Excuses versus Coalition. That is, which type of school truly better prepares low-income minority students for college success: nuts-and-bolts-rigor KIPP, or The project-based (drink), individual-learning-plan (drink) Met?

Michael Lewis’s Moneyball chronicles how a pro baseball team has revolutionized the sport by rejecting the most common, popular baseball statistics (batting average) and instead using new ones that measure what really matters (on-base percentage).

Measuring the college graduation rate (instead of the college admission rate) of each high school could have a similar transformative effect on our industry.

Meanwhile, our charter school does the best we can: we pay our grads $50 for copies of their college report cards (creating a feedback loop for our teachers on where the curriculum needs improvement). If any other high-poverty school leaders, or scholars, have college GPA or retention data on their grads, give me a holler at to compare notes.

– Guest blogger GGW

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