Hmmm…why are Americans often so confused about education issues? It couldn’t possibly be the way the issues are often presented in the media. Take for instance this Pittsburgh Post story which meanders from graduation rates to vouchers with a pit stop for strawmen along the way — and all in about 600 words! I’m not a journalist but it seems to me that when the last graf of the story is entirely unrelated to the first one, something isn’t quite right.
One of the strawmen is the idea that grad rate experts are claiming the graduation rate is falling. EPI’s Larry Mishel pushes back on that notion in the story. But in fact the only people who are saying that are the anti-testing folks, not the graduation rate researchers like Chris Swanson, Jay Greene, etc. All they’re saying is that the rates haven’t been well reported for a long time and are basically stalled or slowly rising.
So two thoughts. First, Mishel’s EPIers could find themselves in a dissonance jam here. They’re supposed to be down on accountability and reform but the only people saying that grad rates are dropping are the professional anti-accountability crowd who link dropouts/pushouts to various accountability schemes. If the anti-accountability political Left and EPI can’t both be right then someone is missing their blocking assignments! Second, as one easy check on this whole thing, urban reporters could just take a look at the number of ninth-graders in schools they cover and then again at the number of 12th graders graduating. All those kids do go somewhere… Not perfect but one indicator. The Indianapolis Star did this a year or so ago and really opened some eyes…Instead, this story just sort of throws up its hands, it’s all so confusing!