Phoenix Union schools far from 'dropout factories'
Arizona Republic
November 9, 2007

(Phoenix, AZ)Author: ART LEBOWITZ
Estimated printed pages: 3
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The Associated Press recently commissioned a study from Johns Hopkins University entitled "Dropout Factories."
Since the study was commissioned by the AP, its findings had a guaranteed national distribution network and, evidently, a willing media anxious or obligated to print and broadcast some sensational news. There is a minor glitch to this perfect news feed, however.

The research methodology used by the authors was faulty at best, deceptive at worst. Instead, this study, and I use the term generously, relied on the most simplistic of calculations to give the AP a sensationalized headline that had little merit, less substance and served no productive purpose.

Here is the study's methodology: Take the total number of ninth-graders enrolling in a school, divide that number by graduates four years later, subtract from 100. The difference is, according to the "Dropout Factories" report, a school's dropout rate.

Students who transfer, graduate early, graduate late or pass away are all dropouts in this methodology. Surely Johns Hopkins cares more about its academic credibility than this minimalist study indicates. What the study actually indicates is that we have high student mobility within our community, and students have other options in our open-enrollment environment. Let me set the record straight. At Camelback High School and Central High School, as well as at all our schools, we are intensely focused on programs throughout the day and throughout the year to help students be successful and graduate. We don't stop there. We are committed to being a college-going district, where just graduating from high school isn't enough, but rather going to college is the true opportunity for competitive equity.

Our staff is dedicated and committed. Our students are focused. Camelback has a four-year graduation rate of over 73 percent according to the federal measure of No Child Left Behind and the state measure of Arizona LEARNS. Central has a 75 percent graduation rate, as measured by No Child Left Behind and Arizona LEARNS. We serve mostly minority, mostly low-income students, some with limited English language proficiency, the very schools targeted in this "study." Yet our graduation rate is above the national average, and above urban districts such as San Diego, Charlotte, Austin, Las Vegas and well beyond Houston, Miami, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Detroit.

Far from "dropout factories," our schools -- Camelback High and Central High included -- are schools of success and institutions of opportunity. Our teachers, support staff, administration and parents take great pride in the achievement of their students and their schools. Our community can be assured that we are meeting the challenge of student achievement, producing a more educated workforce and preparing young people for college.

Sensationalized reports of a dropout crisis authored by a national news agency and written in the style of Chicken Little is, as the kids say, "so 20th century." Phoenix and the residents of our community need and deserve a quality education. They are getting it at Camelback High, Central High and all the rest of the schools in Phoenix Union.


Art Lebowitz is interim Superintendent of the Phoenix Union High School District.
Edition:  Final Chaser
Section:  Northeast Phoenix Republic
Page:  33