Thursday, March 17, 2011

Songs of lowest praise

I've let the news sink in for 24 hours, but I can honestly say I am still baffled.

I admit I had a preconceived notion of what a "failing" school was and what kinds of students they produce: poor, inner-city, low socio-economic class, don't amount to much, blah, blah, etc. 

I had no idea all I needed to do was look in the mirror.

Pennsylvania has revamped its system of tracking graduation rates to better account for students who don't finish in four years. The news does not bode well for my dear old alma mater, Washington High School. Preliminary numbers for 2010 have 47.54 percent of students graduating. That is by far the worst in its area and third-lowest in the ENTIRE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA. 

Yes, I said third-lowest in the state. Worse than Pittsburgh or Philadelphia city schools. Beat only by charter cyber-schools.

Facebook was lit up like a Christmas tree last night as my high school classmates starting finding the initial story and sharing it. And sharing and sharing. Most had the same reaction that I did: were we really that bad 10 years ago? And what has happened since?

Even then, I knew our drop-out rate was high. We lost 100 students between my freshman year and graduation. Someone told me we were among the worst in the state, and looking back, I believe it. Although some of those were transfers, not nearly as many as I'd like to believe. If my fuzzy memory is correct, that means in 1999, the rate was 49.5 percent. 


To put it into the context of something I know now, South Bend schools have been in the news with a state takeover looming for a few of its struggling schools. Their graduation rate for 2010? 73.5 percent.

*Now to be fair, I don't know if Indiana and Pa. use the same kind of crazy calculations, but that's a difference of 25 percent. I'd say it's a close enough comparison. You get the idea.

So what happens now? I don't know. The superintendent was quoted in the local paper by saying the numbers were unfair, that Wash High has a lot of students take more than 4 years because of a transient population. She oughtta be glad I don't live there anymore, because that is exactly NOT what I would like to hear if my kids were in that school district.

I don't care how many kids move there after failing 9th grade somewhere else or need to make up extra credits to graduate. Handing diplomas to less than HALF of your students in a given year is an effing EMBARRASSMENT. I don't want to hear excuses, I want to hear how you're finally going to do something about it. Because this isn't a new problem. But somebody is finally going to call you on it.

Want to be even more informed? Read this.

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