You gotta be an ed wonk to care about this choice by the Star

by David Safier

OK, I'm being picky here, but it's an education issue, and in my corner of the blog, Education R Us. So here we go.

The Star has a NY Times article this morning stating that high school graduation rates are improving. I can't find it on the Star's website — I don't think the paper can post Times articles. So here it is on the Times site.

Improved graduation rates are good news. But the news isn't so good for Arizona and neighboring states.

But the report notes that progress in some states and school districts had not been matched in others. Tennessee and New York made “breakthrough gains,” sharply raising their graduation rates from 2002 to 2008, the report says. In Arizona, Utah and Nevada, graduation rates dropped significantly. [bold face added]

What do the three states with declining graduation rates have in common other than geographic proximity? Arizona and Utah are in a raging battle for last place in per student spending, and Nevada isn't far behind (or ahead, as the case may be). I won't say there's a straight cause-and-effect relationship here, but low funding and low graduation rates probably have a whole lot to do with one another.

30graduation_map-articleInline The grad rate map from the Times, at right, is pretty graphic. The only states in "declining grad rates" red are AZ, UT and NV.

For some strange reason, though, the Star didn't use that damning graphic. Instead, it pulled out a different map comparing "dropout factories" — high schools with alarmingly high dropout rates. In that category, Arizona looks pretty good. Our "dropout factory" numbers declined. (Since the Star's story isn't online, I don't have the graphic to post.)

The Star created the right subhead for its story spotlighting our declining grad rates:

"But AZ among states where that measure significantly worsened."

Yet it took the extra effort to dig up that "dropout factory" graphic instead of the more-damning-to-AZ (and more germane to the article) graphic supplied by the Times. I can only assume the Star wanted to soften the visual blow against Arizona at a time when we're sure to see yet more school budget cuts, which can't mean good news for our future graduation rates. It's a bad choice in an otherwise good article.

0 responses to “You gotta be an ed wonk to care about this choice by the Star

  1. Thanks, D. I saw the Sentinel article after I wrote the post.

  2. Who is to blame and who should be held responsible if X many percent of Arizona students fail to graduate from high school? The high school is there, the teachers are there. It seems to me that there is equality of opportunity. Guaranteed results are unlikely to occur when it comes to graduation given the nature of free will.

    Their 5 suggestions to “get involved” is to write letters, become familiar with political candidate positions, distribute articles, donate to worthy educational causes and mentor a youth. I wonder if they delineate which of these five actions (or some other factor) resulted in the breakthrough gains Tennessee and New York had?

    In any case they certainly seem like a well meaning group and I don’t see any reason why anybody shouldn’t keep their suggestions in mind.

  3. I don’t read the dead-tree edition of the Star, but the dropout factory map is available in the report:

    More info about Arizona and TUSD can be found in the report “Arizona graduation rate dropping as others jump ahead” on