Emeritus Professor Russell Rumberger speaker for webinar on ELLs and high school graduation

Friday, April 19, 2019
graduates tossing their caps

Gevirtz School emeritus professor Russell Rumberger will be one of the two speakers for a Migration Policy Institute sponsored webinar entitled "Do All High School Graduates Count? Unintended Consequences of State Accountability Policies for English Learner Students" on Monday, April 29 at 10 am (PT). Russell W. Rumberger, who is also the Director of the California Dropout Research Project, will be joined by Julie Sugarman, Senior Policy Analyst for PreK-12 Education, Migration Policy Institute (MPI) and moderator Margie McHugh, Director, National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy, MPI.

High school graduation is an important personal achievement as well as a key indicator of school system effectiveness and a community’s potential economic vitality. For almost a decade, all U.S. states have used a common method to calculate the four-year graduation rate as part of their state school accountability system. This measure counts for a significant portion of a high school’s performance rating, which can gain it public accolades or identify it as a school in need of improvement. Even as rates of on-time graduation have improved, English Learners (ELs) post far lower rates than the national average.

This webinar marks the release of a new Migration Policy Institute (MPI) report that investigates the unintended consequences of using the four-year graduation rate for school accountability. The report shows that ELs are more likely than other student subgroups to graduate in five or six years. However, most EL-serving high schools do not get credit for these graduates, as 60 percent of the nation’s ELs are served in states that only count the four-year rate for accountability purposes. Attaching high stakes to the four-year rate may also result in perverse incentives not to welcome high school EL newcomers out of fear these students will be unable to complete a degree in four years and thereby pull down the school’s performance rating. Schools may also mechanically redesign their instructional programs to “ensure” newcomers graduate in four years without evidence such a trajectory is possible or more educationally beneficial than a five- or six-year path.

Webinar participants will also discuss the implications of California’s graduation rate policy choices. California does not use extended-year graduation rates for federal accountability, and—for state reporting—has recently adopted an alternative method for calculating graduation rates for continuation schools that serve older teenagers at significant risk of dropping out. Together, these policies may incentivize administrators to push ELs and other students who need more time to graduate out of traditional high schools and into alternative school settings. Speakers will also discuss policy options states can consider to broaden the definition of a successful high school by using multiple graduation rate indicators.

Those interested in participating may sign up for the webinar online.

Russ Rumberger is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Education. A faculty member at UCSB from 1987 to 2015, Professor Rumberger has published widely in several areas of education: education and work; the schooling of disadvantaged students, particularly school dropouts and linguistic minority students; school effectiveness; and education policy. He has been conducting research on school dropouts for the past 30 years and has written over 40 research papers and essays on the topic. He served as a member of the National Research Council’s (NRC) Committee on Increasing High School Students’ Engagement and Motivation to Learn, which issued the highly regarded volume, Engaging Schools: Fostering High School Students' Motivation to Learn (2003). He was a member on the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences panel that produced the Dropout Prevention Practice Guide (2008). He completed a book, Dropping Out: Why Students Drop Out of High School and What Can Be Done About It, published by Harvard University Press in fall 2011. He served as the Vice Provost for Education Partnerships, University of California Office of the President from 2010-2012. He directs the California Dropout Research Project, which produces a series of reports and policy briefs about the dropout problem in California and a state policy agenda to improve California’s high school graduation rate. In 2013 he was made a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association and received the Elizabeth G. Cohen Distinguished Career in Applied Sociology of Education Award, Sociology of Education SIG, American Educational Research Association. In 2016 he was elected to the National Academy of Education.

[Russell Rumberger is available for inerviews; contact eorge Yatchisin at 805-893-5789.]