Friday, April 17, 2009

Pre-Emptive Accountability

Every so often, it's good to hear some good news about education in this country. That's why it was great to hear about the success that Oregon has had in reducing its dropout rate and increasing the number of high school graduates. The state is now up to an 84% graduation rate while it only has a 3.7% dropout rate. (And yes, that leaves about 12% missing. I don't know what the deal with them is.)

As always, though, it's not enough to celebrate success or condemn failure - we need to look at why. That's what's going to help us reproduce the results we're seeing in Oregon.

The article isn't terribly specific on what's changed, but there's a few hints. The accountability director for the state education department credits better tracking of students and increased interventions for the ones who are in danger of dropping out.

What an obvious idea. Find the kids who are at risk and then help them achieve before they reach a crisis stage. It's so simple that it's brilliant. And effective too, as it turns out. It's a little pre-emptive accountability.

It kind of makes you wonder why we don't do this kind of thing more often. It seems like whenever you hear about accountability, it's in a punitive context (closing schools, holding kids back in a grade, etc.) and not in looking at how to help ahead of time. When a teacher or a school system issues a failing grade, it's a failure for the teacher/system too.

If we're serious about real accountability, let's start being a little proactive rather than just swooping in like an avenging angel after it's too late.

BONUS: According to the article, graduation rates tend to rise as the economy declines. Maybe Bush was focused on being the education president after all.

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