Thursday, November 19, 2009

Its not Easy to Focus on the Winner

Claus von Zastrow & Ashley Merriman:

Merryman:...So I was suggesting in my column that if we focus on the success of kids, which is actually the normative behavior, perhaps we can use that to further improve where we are going. Everybody loves a winner, right?

So focus on that success, even in the at-risk situations. Maybe that is sort of a way to improve without feeling sort of overwhelmed by the scale of the problem.

Public School Insights: But given that there are certain cities like Detroit, Michigan, for example, where not even half the students graduate….

Merryman: I live in LA, which is about at 30% and is considered one of the worst in the country.

Public School Insights: Yes. So can we really focus on the successes of the only 30%--or perhaps even fewer than 30% because the question of what those kids are doing once they graduate also looms large? Is there a way of creating a really strong sense of urgency there, while asking how we spread success to the more than 70% who aren’t succeeding?

The graduation rate in 2007 - 2008 in LA was 74.2%.

Of course, you can find studies that make things look much more dire -- pegging LA's "on time" graduation rate around 45%, but those studies use a ridiculously simple methodology -- comparing 9th grade numbers four years ago to the number of graduates this year -- that misses all kinds of tranfers, etc. Let me put it this way -- if "No Excuses" charters calculated their "graduation" rate this way, they'd be around 60% too at most sites.

Anyhow, I don't want to pick on Claus too much, as it is easy in conversation to flip numbers around. I did think it was pretty funny though.

And not to say drop-outs aren't a problem, but the fact that we're not really clear whether it is a 30%, 45%, or 75% problem shows just how fucked we all are.

1 comment:

Claus von Zastrow said...

Ouch! An arrow through my heart....

You're right, Tom. I clearly misspoke and didn't catch it--thanks for the correction. The grad. rate in LA isn't as low as 30% by any measure I know. I think your numbers used the NCES method, so they'll probably change next year, but they won't plummet to 30%.

I'll include an update on our site. Do you want to leave a comment with your insight? Minus the F-bomb? (Some of our readers have sensitive ears. :)