Betting Against a Big Drop in Graduation Rates

(By Julie Zhu)
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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dear Extra Credit:

A side effect of the High School Assessments requirement in Maryland will be that the Challenge Index rank will improve significantly for Maryland public schools, even though the schools might not have improved. Consider, for example, a school that has a graduating class of 500 students and 1,000 AP tests completed. The Challenge Index would be 1000/500, or 2.000. That school would rank around 513 in the Newsweek list, based on 2008 numbers.

Now, reduce the number of graduating seniors in that school by 10 percent, to 450. The Challenge Index would be 1000/450, or 2.220. The school's rank would improve to about 395. Suddenly, Maryland schools will look better in the rankings, with the historically poorest-performing schools showing the greatest improvement in rank. Will the Challenge Index formula be modified so that the effect of the High School Assessments on the graduation rate is taken into account?

Louis Wilen


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