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.
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.