Setting Expectations

In a story that may or may not make the rounds on the blags (sic), the on-time graduation rate for D.C. public schools students has dropped below 50%. From the Post:
The study, released today by researchers affiliated with the trade publication Education Week, examined data from 1996 to 2006, the latest available federal figures, to calculate the percentage of students who graduate from high school within four years of starting ninth grade.

In 2006, the study found, the D.C. graduation rate fell to 48.8 percent, down 8.8 percentage points from the previous year. The figure did not include public charter schools.
To compare, Maryland and Virginia were at 73.5 and 69.2, respectively. Of course, this is comparing states to a troubled urban area, so those statistics are not particularly helpful. In reality, this story is mostly a non-starter. Back in 2006 USA Today reported (this was most recent data for metro areas I could find during my mid-morning Googling), school districts in Detriot, Baltimore, and New York City all had much lower graduation rates. Detriot was at 21.7, and Baltimore at 38.5.

For stupid comparisons, Baltimore County had an 81.9% rate, and Fairfax County was at 82.5%. No real surprises there.

My favorite part about this whole thing, though, was the statement at the end of the Post article.
[D.C. Schools Spokesperson Jennifer] Calloway declined to comment on the study's graduation numbers, saying that it was D.C. school policy not to discuss performance data from the period before schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee took office in 2007.
I suppose this might be a very valid political move, don't talk about bad things. However, this is setting up some awfully high expectations for when studies come out in the post-Rhee universe. What about if the on-time graduation rate falls again, maybe by 5% or 10%? You should have commented today, saying the figure is very troubling and that there is still a lot of work to be done.

But nah, it's all spin spin spin. Of course, I mean, Rhee was on the cover of Time Magazine and got name dropped by Obama at the debates. She's doing a heckofajob, I'm sure. Hell, maybe she is, but I also know that the D.C. schools is a perennial topic of "oh gee whiz doesn't that suck" amongst most people in this town. You know, except for the people who actually go to or send their kids to, a school with a 30% graduation rate. Hell, even the Obamas don't actually trust Michelle Rhee with their children.

Maybe we can just throw even more money and even more vouchers at the public schools. Oh, and maybe planting some gardens (or building soccer fields) can help improve things as well. We won't ask the hard questions about the systemic failure of the schools, which have been (literally) crumbling for decades. No reason to make the nation's capital have the best schools in the country (or world). This isn't the 1800's, we aren't a city on a hill.


  1. So the city spends some $26,000 per pupil on public schooling.... Maybe schooling is only part of the answer to social problems that suppress IQ and achievement.... And maybe vouchers aren't such a bad idea, after all.

  2. AnonymousJune 09, 2009

    I remember when I used to read this blog every day. It is a very vague memory though and I'm beginning to remember why.