4/29: Measuring graduation rates

By the AJC Editorial Board

Under a new, national measurement tool for graduation rates, Georgia’s numbers are shocking in the short-term — dropping from 81 percent to 67 percent — but they reinforce that we need to keep pushing.

There’s value in the 50 states measuring graduation rates using a common formula — a move that had been recommended by the National Governors Association. Doing so will help Georgians more accurately assess how we’re doing in comparison to other states.

Read the rest of what the AJC Editorial Board has to say, along with commentary by state school superintendent John Barge and former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin. Then tell us what you think.

17 comments Add your comment

Mary Elizabeth

April 29th, 2012
5:23 pm

eddy, @4:33 pm 4/28/12

“Mary E says that poverty is the reason for such abysmal numbers within the black students. I say that poverty plays a role but the larger role is that the nuclear black family (mother AND father married, living in the same house, working, etc.) has become almost extinct within the inner city. Generations of young girls having babies when they are but teenagers themselves. Being poor doesn’t mean that one doesn’t know right from wrong. It is accepted to have numerous children out of wedlock by different men. Welfare is generational and perpetuates itself through bad behavior, lack of guidance and little to no focus on education.”
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Eddy, your words have weighed heavily upon me since you wrote them yesterday. As an educator, especially, I feel that I must write a few words in response, though I at first resisted doing so, not only for you, but for others who may read this forum – as well as pose a few questions.

The most impacting statement that you wrote, to me, was that, ‘being poor doesn’t mean that one doesn’t know right from wrong.” I am writing to try to help some place themselves in others’ shoes and to help some to weigh their thoughts, against a historical landscape and with historical perspective.

Did you know your maternal and paternal grandparents? Were they married partners who raised children together? And what about their parents – your eight great-grandparents? Were they, also, all married partners who raised their children together? If your family was like my family, and the families of many other white, Southern people, they had a history of married partners, going back for generations.

Now look at how the black people, of our same time and place, may have had family histories that probably were quite different. During the days prior to the Civil War in the South, slaves were property and, even if two slaves considered themselves husband and wife with their own children, they were owned by others. That meant that husband and wife slaves, and even their children, were often split up when they were sold to others for profit. Moreover, many plantation owners impregnated their female slaves who gave birth to the plantation owner’s child slaves, which meant more profit for the owner, by his having even more slaves. The living quarters, in which most slaves lived on plantations, did not allow for small homes for family units; instead, slaves were housed, altogether, in very small quarters, in which even intimacies shared would be known by the group because of how they were housed. This was inhumane and injust treatment because of the inhumanity of slavery, itself. Don’t you think that those slave owners should have known “right from wrong”? And, don’t you think that their “wrongs,” done in their day, might have perpetuated dysfunction and ill fortune in the future lives of their slaves’ children and their children’s children, even to this day? I do.

Fast forward a little in history. After slavery was abolished, Jim Crow laws were established in the South so that black people, who had first been elected representatives to state houses of legislation immediately after the Civil War, could no longer vote and certainly not hold elective office. I remember, firsthand, the Jim Crow Era in the South with the segregated water fountains, movie houses, schools, restaurants, shops, and so many other ways of segregating the races. Black men did not have the same job opportunities as white men (nor the same educational opportunities, since they were, by law, not able to learn to read during the days of slavery). Black men did not even have the same job opportunities as black women in the South, who often were hired as domestic workers in the homes of white, middle and upper class people of my youth (See the movie, “The Help.”) Many black men were lynched after the turn of the last century. For all of the reasons that I have described, and more, the nuclear black family was more difficult to sustain than the nuclear white family. Also, many black men left the South because the oppression of racism was so prevalent against them. (My father even suffered the ramifications, as a white city manager of a south Georgia town in the 1950s during Jim Crow, of promoting the first black man to a supervisory position in the city’s government simply because, in my father’s estimation, the black man was the most qualified person for the position, and he deserved it.)

With that kind of history, how many of the present day young black women, whom you describe, have had parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents who have had stable jobs, and a stable husband and wife family unit, upon which to model your idea of “right” and “wrong”? Many may not have had the same backgrounds that you and I have experienced. The overwhelming “wrongs” in America have been the perpetuation of slavery, illiteracy of black people enforced by law during the 1800s, segregation, Jim Crow in the South until the early 1970s. And, now, many further add to those past “wrongs” by blaming the victims of those terrible historical injustices.

I believe in personal responsibility, and I spent my professional life trying to lift the lives of those who have not been given the same opportunities in society that I had been given. The students, and their families, whom I have worked with, over the decades, knew what I was about, in their behalf, and they appreciated my efforts. I believe that they knew that I cared deeply for them, and most of them cared for me in return, as a result.

As I had posted, previously, most of the students I taught were very motivated to improve their lives, and my belief in them did as much for them as the skills I taught them. I remain proud of a black student who graduated from Harvard University and earned a Ph.D in chemical engineering. He should be about 45 years old, now. The last I had heard about him, he was getting married to a young woman as outstanding as he is. I imagine he is now a model husband and father. His mother was a teacher in my school and his father was a professional, also. He, like myself, was fortunate to have been raised in a two-parent family unit, and he was not raised in poverty.

Not all of society’s children (from one generation to the next) are so fortunate or blessed as that young man. When we see the effects of slavery, racism, and poverty we should not cast blame, we should try to help to alleviate as many of the leftover problems of those evils as we can.

I started my teaching career in a south Georgia school in which I taught white orphan boys from a local Sheriff’s Boys Ranch. The effects of poverty, and of being on the lower class level of society had, also, had devastating effects in their lives. I did not judge those boys, or the fact that they appeared “unmotivated” by what their backgrounds had reaped upon them. I, also, tried to give them a caring “hand up” so that they, too, could become productive citizens within society and so that they, too, might have happy personal lives. It is always better to help, than to cast blame. “Judge not.”

We are in agreement that education is a vital key in correcting the problems of today, especially within the populations of the inner cities’ poor. Education is the new Civil Rights issue of today, according to Arne Duncan.

jacksmum

April 29th, 2012
11:07 am

I live in a small community where the have’s and have-not’s are very clearly delineated. The number two differences in this community are effort and motivation. The majority of my neighbors are self-made success stories. They worked hard, borrowed for college (and advanced degrees), lived within their means and made something of themselves. Their children make good grades, or if they don’t the parents are involved with safety net programs (both provided by the school and paid for by the parents). These kids are involved in extra curricular activities and the parents participate. They are raising children to have good work ethics and value success. In other words good choices make them successful.
On the flip side, I go to the school and see very young, uneducated parents who don’t seem to care about their children. Maybe it is because they are so young, but the children are treated more like a bother than a boon. These people are often out of work, on disability or simply on the dole permanently. Bad grades are either tolerated or “the teacher’s fault”.
It is sad to live in a community where it is so apparent why people do not succeed. If we could stop studying skin color, socioeconomic backgrounds and other “not my fault” reasons and study effort and motivation, maybe more of our “have-not’s” would learn how to become successful.

Eric

April 29th, 2012
8:42 am

@Eddy, sorry, but I think the examples you cite are only a small percentage of the student population. The majority of students are receiving a great education and are doing very well. It’s all the bogus negativity floating around about how our students are falling behind and how bad our schools are. I don’t buy it.

Eric

April 29th, 2012
8:37 am

“Doing so will help Georgians more accurately assess how we’re doing in comparison to other states.”

What is the point of comparing Georgia to other states? This sounds a lot like standardized testing, where students are compared to a norm. Just as no student is the same, no state is the same. Each as it’s own issues for different reasons. A better benchmark is to work from within to bring up graduate rates and look at our own progress from year-to-year. What the other states do is their business and trying to keep up with them is an artificial benchmark leading to needless anxiety.

eddy

April 28th, 2012
4:33 pm

Graduation rates are one measurement. I guess those who rely upon these rates assume that the students are actually educated in at least the basics…..reading, writing (which includes grammar and punctuation, being able conjugate and use verbs correctly in sentences) and arithmetic…addition, subtraction, multiplication, division (geometry, algebra, trigonometry should be there as well). I submit that a significant % of students who are given a high school diploma are functionally illiterate but are just moved along for fear that their self-esteem will be damaged in some way.

Mary E says that poverty is the reason for such abysmal numbers within the black students. I say that poverty plays a role but the larger role is that the nuclear black family (mother AND father married, living in the same house, working, etc.) has become almost extinct within the inner city. Generations of young girls having babies when they are but teenagers themselves. Being poor doesn’t mean that one doesn’t know right from wrong. It is accepted to have numerous children out of wedlock by different men. Welfare is generational and perpetuates itself through bad behavior, lack of guidance and little to no focus on education.

Mary E…I know that there are exceptions to all rules but I am referring to the black majority in the inner city. There is little to no ownership within the black community for the systemic problems. “It is whitey’s fault” is the rallying cry in spite of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent trying to alleviate the problems. Education is one way out of the inner city, out of poverty but it seems that this message is drowned out culturally.

Just as APS tried to “fix” the problems by cheating (erasing incorrect answers), those teachers and administrators had little to no interest in educating the kids. They were just interested in looking good when the results were totaled and getting some bonus money.

By all means, let’s address the graduation rates but the graduation rates of all students by doing the hard work of educating them, letting them repeat grades, letting them receive remedial help, etc. Graduation rates are meaningless unless those graduating are trully educated.

Mary Elizabeth

April 28th, 2012
3:13 pm

Not Blind: “IMO, in the big picture there is nothing constructive that teachers can do in the classroom to address the issue of endemic subpar minority performance.”
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Having taught in the classroom for 35 years, half of which time I served students within a minority high school, I must disagree with Not Blind’s assessment. Most of the minority students in my elective college-preparatory reading classes, for college-bound students, improved their SAT scores, significantly, and they were as motivated to achieve as students I had taught from other racial and ethnic groups. Most of my students were very motivated to achieve.

The students who are unmotivated to achieve, whatever their racial and ethnic group, have often not been assessed correctly as to their individual functioning levels and are, therefore, being taught incorrectly on a frustration level. See my 1:00 am post, 4/28/12, for greater detail.

Not Blind

April 28th, 2012
2:53 pm

The national debate does not address the real issues. IMO, in the big picture there is nothing constructive that teachers can do in the classroom to address the issue of endemic subpar minority performance. This is coming from a classic scholastic underacheiver who did as little as he could and still get a diploma.

Some way has to be found to connect classroom performance with future paychecks. Of course, with our current economic and corporate [ H1B visas, outsourcing jobs, etc ] climate and our country’s love of imported [ legal or otherwise ] cheap labor I can see how it would be hard to instill in American youth a sense that studying hard reaps rewards.