Bush Foundation Sought to Head Off Bad News on Florida’s Graduation Rates


A curious post was printed in Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education blog on January 3rd which indicated the foundation was taking the position that federal measurement of graduation rates were “misleading.” Wrote the foundation’s  Mike Thomas:

But the new measure comes in the form of numbers without context because there is no calculation of what states require for a diploma. A student who may easily meet the requirements to graduate in one state may not in another.

All diplomas are not created equal.

This makes the federal rankings misleading because they are not an apples-to-apples comparison among states. People in the education business understand this, but the vast majoritrany of people – including many in the media and in state legislatures — do not. And so while these rankings carry no federal sanctions, they most definitely have political ramifications.

Perhaps Thomas and his bosses knew that those federal numbers wouldn’t look good for Florida and be a blemish on the Florida model. Three weeks later on January 22nd, their concerns were realized. From  Gradebook’s Jeff Solochek:

A new U.S. Department of Education report indicates that more high school students graduated on time in 2009-10 than ever before, the Huffington Post reports.

The analysis does not use the new, uniform calculation of graduation rates that the department mandated this year, so all states could be compared to one another.

Either way, Florida continued to sit near the bottom of the heap. Under the new one, released in November, Florida ranked sixth from the bottom.

In the latest one? Florida’s 70.8 percent graduation rate came in well under the national rate of 78.2 percent, and better than only Nevada, New Mexico, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi and the District of Columbia.

There’s no denying the state has vastly improved its graduation rates over time by any measure. But there’s also no denying that it’s still a long way to the top.

The Bush foundation’s recent cherry-picking of data couldn’t be more obvious. On January 10th they were cheering a study which found Florida 4th graders to be second in the world in a measure that not only didn’t include other states – which does the federal graduation rate study –  but cost the state $1.9 million to take part in.

So yes, to tests from Florida 4th graders. But no, to Florida high school graduation rates.

About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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