Governor Lynch is all about his success at reducing Drop Out rates in New Hampshire. That’s the number of high school age kids who leave school without graduation or achieving a recognized equivalent. He even has a goal. New Hampshire will have a zero percent drop out rate by 2012. And based on the available data, I think he will succeed, but not in reducing actual “drop outs” to zero.
Mr. Lynch’s crusade is more about perception than reality. He has legislated that students stay in school until the age of 18. At any point up to or after age 18, the student may exit the education system into any number of alternatives which will not reflect negatively on the success of John Lynch or his program to achieve zero drop outs by 2012.
The term ‘drop out’ has been changed at the state level for reporting purposes, excluding any number of ‘drop outs’ from the data reported to national entities. The new term is “Early Exit Non-Graduates.” Early exit non graduates can exit into any of a number of alternatives and not be counted as drop outs. While there has been a decrease, this is still the primary method by which drop out rates are being reduced in New Hampshire.
Students who leave the public school system for home schooling, vocation programs, alternative education, seek certificates or GED’s, or enroll in at least one college like course are excluded as drop outs. It is reasonable to assume that public service jobs, or volunteer programs will also be rolled into the acceptable early exit program, as well as any number of employment opportunities to be classified by the state as an acceptable early exit-non graduate solution.
And it is no surprise to anyone paying attention that failing students are pushed along or that standards overall have declined. This may produce fewer drop outs, but at what cost to the student or the taxpayer funded ‘states interest’ on which a mandatory public education is supposedly based?
Are you beginning to get the picture? John Lynch is committed to reducing the number of reported drop outs. And I will give him credit with having a genuine interest in making sure kids are completing some kind of requirement. But redefining the essence of what constitutes a drop out, and adding as many exit strategies as possible just so you can claim to have eliminated the problem, is not solving the problem. It is hiding it. And while a standard public school education should not be the only alternative, and many kids will find success in other paths to becoming self reliant, advertising your redefined success in a historical context which you have abandoned is dishonest.
So can Governor Lynch achieve a zero drop out rate in New Hampshire? Yes he can. But it will be through bureaucratic wand waving and semantic gymnastics. We’ll still have drop outs. We just wont be calling them that. And the Governor is hoping no one will notice.