Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Oprah's School crisis shows doesn't tell the whole story.

Edumacation: Clicking around the dial I happen to pass by Oprah's show about American schools in crisis episode. She goes thru the states with the highest and lowest graduation rates to show how big the gap is for students. What caught my attention was "NEW JERSEY: 88%" This was for the class of 2003. New Jersey with the highest grad rate in the nation? Impossible, Camden and Newark should drag that average down. Its got to be grade inflation and lots of social promotion or really low standards. Googled around and saw this study by another organization called the Editorial Projects in Education for the same 2003 class which had this to say.

"....More than eight in 10 New Jersey high schoolers got their diplomas in 2003, making the state's high school graduation rate the nation's highest, according to a new national study. The statewide graduation rate was 84.5 percent in the 2002-03 school year, according to the study by Editorial Projects in Education, the Maryland-based nonprofit organization that publishes the influential newspaper Education Week. The national graduation rate was just under seven in 10, according to the study. While the high school graduation rates are considered one important measure of school systems, it's deceptive in this case, according to the study's authors. That's because New Jersey provides ways for students who fail required graduation tests to get diplomas anyway. Some students who receive diplomas in New Jersey would not meet the requirements to get them in other states, said study author Christopher B. Swanson. "It doesn't mean the state isn't doing some good things to improve the graduation rate," Swanson said. New Jersey officials are planning to eliminate the alternate path to graduation, which is used by some 20 percent of the state's graduates — and half in the state's poorest cities. Some education officials have said the alternate method of graduating hurts students by not requiring enough of them. By contrast, some of the states with lower graduation rates offer certificates of attendance or other acknowledgments short of full diplomas to students who do not pass graduation tests. The study found that New Jersey students are most likely to drop out during or just after 10th grade. Across the country, students who quit school do so most often in the ninth grade."
Maybe Oprah pointed this out later in the show since I didn't stick around for the rest, but just another example of stats being used to frame a debate that she needed to explain more in depth to her audience.

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