On the blogs: Adams, Knowles inflate dropout rate

8:05 am

On Our Global Education, Kenneth Libby dissects the source of Mayor Sam Adams’ and school board member Pam Knowles’ erroneous claim of a forty-something percent dropout rate in Portland Public Schools.

The source? A Gates Foundation-funded study. The actual dropout rate is something less than 37%. The study counts 63% of students graduating (57% within four years of starting ninth grade and another 6% within five years), but cannot account definitively for the remaining 37%. Some are dropouts, but some transfer to schools that use different accounting, for example.

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Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

filed under: Data Crunch, High Schools, Media

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3 Responses

  1. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Can someone explain this to me? Isn’t 30+% horrendous anyway? And if they think it is too much won’t they try harder to do something about it? And what about all the kids graduating with rotten educations in PPS? What % is that? Add it all up and I guarantee it is over 50% in Portland’s lower economic neighborhoods. That’s one out of every two kids comes out of our school system in those neighborhoods so undereducated it is ridiculous. The schools just happen to be something we could fix.

  2. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    I think the point is that politicians tend to use this type of statistic cynically, not that we don’t have a real problem.

    Clearly, we have a problem, and it disproportionately impacts poor and minority students. It is shameful.

    But it is easy to identify a pattern of political misuse of statistics like this to justify all kinds of “reforms” that only make the problems worse for poor and minority students.

    Our recent K-8 and Small Schools experiments were justified, at least in part, as attempts to address the achievement gap. Instead, they have virtually eliminated comprehensive secondary education for poor and minority students, which, one could argue, makes their chances of graduating on time even worse than before.

  3. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Good point, Steve. The whole of education, from the inside, seems driven by educational “research” which is then used to justify the reforms which are often counter-intuitive and become the overriding concern of each school — instead of using common sense to address the problems. And it makes no difference that eductional “research” is universally flawed because “research” means you can control the variables and this is not humanly possible for educational study after educational study. Yet, we use these terribly flawed studies to justify our educational decisions which are more often than not just job protection moves or self-gratificational ego tripping.

    I have been reading a lot of books recently on brain research and the studies there have a lot more application to education than anything I have seen out of educational institutions. This means, for all you educators out there, that such things as (hold onto your hats) “best practices” are not really a product of solid research but just a by-product of some eduational professor’s flawed studies or a nice idea by an educational consultant.

    The interesting thing about common sense as a guide to education is that it has been tested for years in the crucible of schools, home, and community and gets applied to specific situations not as a holy grail universally applied regardless of the infinite number of variables in each school and classroom as we now use educational “research”.