If you just ignore the dropouts, the graduation rate is 100%

Cross-posted on Right Michigan at www.RightMichigan.com.

Twenty-five percent.  That’s how many public school students in Michigan don’t graduate within four years.  Twenty-five percent.  But don’t get too worked up over the number… because if that gets the blood pressure up, well, when you dig into some of the district breakdowns you might have a freaking aneurism.  I’m a Grand Rapids guy and we’ve got a teachers union threatening an illegal strike week after next so let’s start here in my home town.

According to the Grand Rapids Press a staggering 48% of students enrolled in the Grand Rapids Public Schools fail to graduate within four years.  That’s a 52% graduation rate.

(District Superintendent Bernard) Taylor pointed to his district’s alternative programs for bringing down the graduation rate to 52 percent. City schools have rates as low as 34 percent at Adelante, 25 percent at the Northwest Career Pathways and 10 percent at the School of Construction.

Taylor said the rate for their four comprehensive high schools is about 75 percent, around the state average.

“We were accused of running dropout factories, but those numbers don’t look like dropout factories to me,” Taylor said, referring to a label used last year in a Johns Hopkins University study that employed a different method for counting dropouts.

First things first, mad props to my alma mater, Ottawa Hills High School, which boasts the highest graduation rate (84 percent) among the “big four” in the District. But let’s unpack this alternative school excuse.  Supers across the state are telling their parents and newspapers this morning that alternative schools are dragging down their graduation rates and they’re really doing a much better job with kids than the numbers show.

And they’re right.  Oh, and they’re wrong.  

Read on…

No doubt alternatives are a “drag” on the graduation rate.  There are GRPS students there who haven’t been able to handle the rigors of the normal four year District schedule, due to any number of (few) good and (mostly) poor reasons.  But they are students.  They are “insert your district here” students.  They did NOT and are NOT graduating in four years.  They are human beings.  The districts are THRILLED to include them in their numbers on “count day” to swipe hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state via per-pupil funding.  

If you’re going to get paid to educate them you can’t shelve them in an “alternative” and wish them away.  On the flip side, GRPS is happy to include City High School in their calculations… City boasts a 96% graduation rate.  Of course, City is a school for gifted kids with involved parents.  

It’d be nice for the PR efforts of Bernie and his Super Friends (get it? Super Friends? Ba-dam-CHING!) if they could warehouse the good students in one building and convince everyone the other buildings shouldn’t be included in any calculations.  It’d be nice but it’d be dishonest.  

Bottom line, 52% of the students in the Grand Rapids Public Schools fail to graduate in four years.  Yuck.  But hey, at least we’re the H-P.  The Detroit News reports:

School officials in Highland Park said the 2007 district graduation rate of 24 percent masks a much higher graduation rate of 66 percent for Highland Park Community High School.

The Ferndale Public School District saw the largest drop of Metro Detroit schools — almost 53 percentage points — from 91 percent graduating in 2005-06 to 38 percent for the class of 2007, in part because the district serves about 1,000 students in three alternative schools.

“I think the new method is much more accurate because we’re getting a student-by-student measure and this will make sure no child is left behind,” district spokeswoman Stephanie Hall said…

Detroit Public Schools’ 2007 graduation rate is 58 percent under the new formula, down from 67 percent in 2005-06 under the old formula.

Yep, when you factor in everyone the district’s get paid to educate the Detroit Public Schools have a better graduation rate than Grand Rapids.  I sincerely hope that all of my friends in the D won’t take this the wrong way… but that is GARBAGE! DPS.  The same district with a $400+ million annual budget deficit.  Doing a better job graduating kids across the board than the Grand Rapids Public Schools?

Should not be.  But none of these numbers are pretty.  The public school system in Michigan is every bit as broken as Lansing seems to be and throwing good money after bad hasn’t changed a thing.  That’s always the trick, the unions and the Democrats tell us… just spend more… but these new numbers seem to paint a pretty bleak picture about what all of that fresh cash has done.  

I know, I know, we just haven’t given them ENOUGH!  My bad.  Maybe we can send a study group to Montreal, learn about their separatist movement, secede from the United States and start printing our own money.  Then we could change the per-pupil funding formula to something like eight-trillion “Granholms” for every student.  

Meanwhile, a report in the Ivory Tower on dissatisfaction with the state among Democrats makes a little more sense.

As a woman of color, Pat Browne of Detroit is excited that an African American is a true contender for president.

That doesn’t mean she’s going to vote for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. A longtime Democrat, Browne, 57, of Detroit has had it with the Democratic Party and pledged her support to Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona. She even had a house party for the campaign on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention.

“The Democratic climate I’m feeling in this country and this state is not supportive of the values that I hold dear,” she said.

Go figure.