Mary Flood, in “Diploma rate: ‘A crisis of graduation’ ” (Houston Chronicle, May 22, 2009, 8:50PM), presents some statistics:
As thousands of Houston-area high school seniors prepare to accept their diplomas in the coming weeks, a study released Friday shows that only 58.5 percent of the region’s freshmen make it to graduation day. Children at Risk, a Houston-based advocacy group, commissioned the Texas Education Agency to conduct study of six-year graduation rates for the region’s 130 high schools. They learned that 53 percent of the students who begin as ninth-graders in the Houston Independent School District had not graduated from any Texas high school in six years. The combined graduation rate for the entire region’s high schools is 58.5 percent. … “There is a real crisis, a crisis of graduation,” Children at Risk president and CEO Robert Sanborn said, pointing out the link between poverty and education levels. “We really don’t think the TEA and the school districts are being honest with the public.” Sanborn said HISD estimates it graduates as many as 77 percent of its students within four years. That number is based on faulty data that doesn’t count as dropouts students who claim they’re going to be home schooled, attend private school or move out of state or country, he said. … But, [Karen Garza, HISD’s chief academic officer] said, HISD uses the formula prescribed by the TEA, and she doesn’t see the Children at Risk calculation as being any more reliable. Sanborn said they followed the suggestions of former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings’ administration. The group had the TEA analyze the 2001-2002 class of freshmen and track them through six years and count them if they graduated from a high school anywhere in Texas. They were not counted as graduates if they went to private school, left the state or were home schooled. Copyright 2009 Houston ChronicleNote that the percentages will vary depending on how students are categorized. Studies categorize differently students who are “home schooled, attend private school or move out of state or country.” This will make a big difference in the report a study turns out. In this as in all other studies, you must look at the definitions and methodology to properly understand a report and its statistics. Never take the numbers (and conclusions) at face value.