Friday, January 06, 2006

Republican Photo Op: Driving more money into the classroom

News Release:

At 1:57 PM Eastern Time (or was it 1:57 Central maybe it was... Eastern DST or...) representatives of the National Republican Party staged a "photo op" to demonstrate their national commitment to "Driving More Money into the Classroom." The 1997 late model car was stuffed with coins in various amounts of small change and carefully choreographed to careen through the window of Mrs. Ruth Jones busy 3rd grade classroom. A Republican spokesperson who wished to remain anonymous stated, "It demonstrates our commitment in a very clear way." "Mrs Jones said, "All 37 kids were absolutely terrified. It would have helped if they had told us ahead of time they were planning this. But at least all the kids managed to scramble away as the glass shards were raining down around us."

Mrs. Margaret Spellings said, "At least No Child was Left Behind."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Vouchers Trojan Horse

You could almost see this trojan horse rolling up the plank.

Some Indiana Republican legislators recently announced that they were going to seek legislation allowing a vouchers program for parents of children with autism.

They forgot one little teensy-weensy thing...maybe parents of children with autism aren't interested.

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette today ran an editorial indicating that the Autism Society was not aware of the proposal and furthermore, may not be interested.

“There’s a concern that they are putting forth this bill without having consulted anyone in the autism community,” said Susan Pieples, president of the Autism Society of Indiana. “We want to make sure we’re not being used as a pawn for school choice.”She said House leaders showed “little integrity” in proposing the voucher plan without first consulting those most affected.

“We don’t want to see money taken away from those programs,” she said. “The general education system has to be shored up first. It is really a travesty that we can find money to fund a new (Colts) stadium, but we’re so underfunded when it comes
to children.”

Not all Republicans were behind this trojan horse of course, but enough were that they felt comfortable to run the idea out in public.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Are the Indy Star's graduation stats just as inaccurate?

Many high school principals have privately complained in years past about there not being a consistent way of reporting graduation and dropout statistics.

This fall the Indianapolis Star ran a series on graduation rates and dropouts in an effort to bring public attention to the issue.

Unfortunately, after a number of pretty decent editorials, they go too far with this one.

The Star's version of graduation rates is just as twisted as the old high school rates.

Here are a few quotes from the Star:

IPS, with a graduation rate of 39 percent in 2005, remains home to the region's worst dropout factories.

The failure of state and local educators to report realistic graduation rates, however, conceals such dismal performance. Says (Stan )Jones: "They think their schools have nice facilities and things are fine, when in fact things are not."

Inflated graduation numbers have lulled the public into believing that dropping out is rare. It's not.

Read through this list of Indy area schools and then look at the Star's definition of "graduation."

The Star's editorial board's calculations were made by taking the number of seniors graduating in 2005 and comparing it to the number of 8th graders in 2001. Couldn't get it more simple...and couldn't get it more wrong. Just as wrong as many of the "bloated" high school rates they are taking to task.

The Star claims that the Indianapolis Public Schools has a graduation rate of 39%. However, compare this 39% statistic to the Census Data ( note: click on the county for which you want stats - wait for the red arrow and click when the hand appears) which shows the percentage of adults over the age of 25 in Marion County with high school diplomas is 81.6%. Is there a disconnect? I guess there could be. Maybe 42.6% of them all leave the county or finish up high school before they turn 25. Or maybe this is a new version of the famous economic "brain drain" problem in Indiana? :-)

Except where do they go? Here are all the counties surrounding Marion county and the percentages of adults over 25 with high school diplomas.
Marion County 81.6%
Hamilton County 94.2%
Boone County 88.3 %
Hendricks County 88.5%
Morgan County 80.7%
Johnson County 85.7%
Shelby County 79.8%
Hancock County 87.8%

According to Census Data placed on the Department of Education website for the Indianapolis Public Schools, the percentage of adults WITHOUT a high school diploma in the IPS area has been reduced from 41.3% in 1980 to 28.3 % in 2000. This improvement trend was the same in almost every single school corporation on the Star's list.

I suppose the true graduation rates are closer to the census data numbers than they are the old "glorified" graduation rates the high schools reported or the Star's pessimistic view.