Forum Guide to Metadata
NFES 2009-805
July 2009

Metadata: Solving the Case of the Inaccurate Dropout Count, Chapter 1

Everyone agreed that the new principal at Lincoln High School, Mr. Howell, was doing an excellent job. The teaching staff were well supported, students were motivated, and dropout prevention resources were properly targeted. The superintendent was therefore shocked to see that the school's dropout rate had increased dramatically over the past year. But how could the point be argued? The student population hadn't changed, the collection date hadn't changed, and counts at peer schools remained the same. Superintendent Sanders stared at the report in front of her.

Still enrolled: 4 percent
Completed: 35 percent
Dropout rate: 61 percent

How was she to explain what was happening at Lincoln High? A thorough review of the data was surely in order, so Dr. Sanders called Mr. Howell. The principal assured her that fewer students were dropping out at Lincoln High. "How can you be so sure?" Superintendent Sanders queried. "I can just tell," said Principal Howell. "I can't explain the report, but I know that our kids are staying in school." "Well, Mr. Howell," the superintendent replied, "I am sure you know what is going on in your school, but we can't just rely on your instincts. We have to look at the objective data, and they say that you're wrong... Now, let's dig into those numbers and see what is really going on."

This is the first installment of an ongoing story presented throughout this publication. The saga continues in Exhibit 2.3.