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Whats more important: graduation rates or FCAT scores?

caines | 5/31/2012, 5:30 a.m.

After candid conversations with several urban high school principals, including Booker T. Washingtons William Aristide and then reviewing data provided by the Miami-Dade County School Board, a five-year, rarely-discussed trend was discovered. Despite the hoopla about FCAT school scores hovering on mediocre, more students from the Countys mostly-Black schools are making significant headway in their graduation rates. In fact, Miami Jackson has even doubled its rate from 2006 to 2011, from 42.4 percent to 85.1 percent. Norland and Washington have also eclipsed the 80 percent rate at 82.5 and 80.5 percent, respectively. And while schools like Central, Carol City and Homestead still have a way to go, they too have improved over dismal percentages five years ago that were at 50 percent and below. Rather than allow the natural progression to be dropping out of high school and finding ones way to the prison industrial complex, principals like Washington and his colleagues in the County are flipping the script and creating environments of excellence. Theyre preparing their students for college. It takes innovation, hard work, perseverance and an attitude that says all students can learn. This was the mindset that helped W.E. B. DuBoiss Talented Tenth find success in the early 20th century. In those days, segregated schools had teachers and administrators that pushed their students to high levels of academic success and refused nothing less. Their collective efforts resulted in the first wave of Black doctors, lawyers, politicians, teachers, preachers, law enforcement officials and the like. Today, our children have been convinced that they are failures because their scores on standardized tests dont equate to their white counterparts. But lets be honest many of our schools have the kinds of resources that make taking such culturally-biased tests a cakewalk. In the real world, kids are destined to failure without a high school diploma. And the last time we looked, potential employers dont ask folks about their FCAT scores.