New research unveiled at this year’s AERA conference documents a disturbing trend among the nation’s secondary schools: Between 2001 and 2012, high school graduation rates regularly spiked in late May and early June, ballooning from near zero to a staggering average of 78 percent. This $400 million, eleven-year study analyzed all 26,749 secondary schools in the United States, employing a differentiated ANOVA regression-correlation curved-linear analysis on microdata from each of the fifty states. Controlling for a host of variables, from student demographics to the number of NASCAR fans per county, analysts demonstrated that no random variation in graduation rates could have yielded the observed rate. Instead, they concluded that the spike is caused by heightened—and unfair—accountability pressure arising from No Child Left Behind: School officials artificially inflate graduation rates in May and June after realizing that their rates in preceding months were far below federal standards. This pattern is repeated year after year. In an equally worrisome finding, the analysts discovered that teacher- and school-administrator-absence rates jump at nearly the same time and actually increase through July and early August. Researchers posit that these employees, ashamed of their data manipulation, take leave in order to conceal their culpability.
SOURCE: Perry Dox and Shirley U. Jest, “The June phenomenon: Graduation rates and teacher absenteeism,” Boring Journal of the AERA, February 2013.