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Professional Opinion

Accurate graduation rates are essential measures of high school performance

THIS MAY AND JUNE HIGH school seniors across the country will be walking across the stage to pick up their diplomas. They will then be official high school graduates with their futures in front of them.

Math and science, oh my. What will we do? We don't produce enough students interested in math and science. Something must be done. I hear this refrain so often my head hurts.

I continue to be astounded at the resiliency of school districts throughout the U.S., as they strive to increase access to technology for students and teachers in the face of tight budgets. Nearly every day I encounter yet another district initiating or expanding computer access, such as through one-to-one initiatives. But with the current student/computer ratio in the U.S. hovering around 4:1, at any given time 75 percent of our students still lack access to computers.

It began in 1994 as a small project that brought together a newly hired deputy superintendent and development officer. Great teamwork, perseverance and the lessons we've learned during the past eight years have resulted in $38 million in competitive grants for our small urban district.

That first project began with a superintendent directive to conduct a brainstorming session for a new grant opportunity. When we asked what the grant was about, participants excitedly responded that it was "about $50,000." It was a very brief meeting.

Whether you have faith in standardized testing or hope the pendulum swings the other way real soon, you have to admit that there's power in data. The question is how that data is understood and used.

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