This report by veteran education reporter John Merrow makes the phenomenon of high-school "push-outs" crystal clear. When calculating their graduation rates, Florida schools remove all students who are transferred to GED programs from their rolls. "If they're totally withdrawn from here, then they're not going to count against us. So in essence, they then improved our graduation rate if they withdraw . . ." says Karen Wilson, principal of Evans High School in Orlando. Evans' graduation rate has improved. In the last year, it was calculated, Evans referred 271 failing students into GED programs, thus taking them off its own rolls. That same year, its graduation rate rose from 61 percent to 66 percent, enough to satisfy state and federal requirements. But at the same time, the actual number of diplomas handed out fell from 412 to 354. In two years, Evans has transferred 440 students into GED programs. In that same time, only 14 enrolled.
Last year in Orlando, high schools transferred 1,201 teenagers to the GED; 315 actually enrolled and 135 earned a diploma. That leaves 886 teenagers unaccounted for.
Thousands of Florida teenagers are disappearing from the rolls. Last year, the number of failing students transferred to the GED rose from 11,615 to 17,144.