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Volume 20, Number 5
September/October 2004

Performance vs. Attainment

The double standard for accountability in American high schools


It was a fairly standard high school visit. I met Kevin, the principal of Belle Glade High School, in his office at 7:15 a.m. and spent most of the day visiting classrooms. Kevin is an experienced high school administrator in his second year at Belle Glade. Belle Glade enrolls students from a suburban community with one of the highest median family incomes in its region. The school is surrounded by well-appointed homes on multi-acre lots; its student parking lot is populated by late-model SUVs with roof racks and elliptical stickers with mysterious letters on them. More than 90 percent of the students at Belle Glade go on to college.

At the end of the day, I presented what has become a fairly standard set of observations.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

C. Adelman. Answers in the Tool Box: Academic Intensity, Attendance Patterns, and Bachelors Degree Attainment. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, 1999.

M. Kirst and K.R. Bracco. "Bridging the Great Divide: How the K-12 and Postsecondary Split Hurts Students, and What Can Be Done About It." In M. Kirst and A. Venezia. From High School to College: Improving Opportunities in Postsecondary Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004.

B. Schneider. "Strategies for Success: High School and Beyond." In D. Ravitch, ed., Brookings Papers on Educational Policy. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2003.

Richard F. Elmore's latest collection of essays, School Reform from the Inside Out: Policy, Practice, and Performance, will be published this month by Harvard Education Press. To order call 1-800-513-0763. HEL subscribers can access a chapter from the book, "Change and Improvement in Education Reform".