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> http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/014/metro/> Groups urge small schools, better data to curb dropouts
>
> By Raphael Lewis, Globe Staff, 1/14/2001
>
> [Image]he nation's high school dropout rate could be cut dramatically if
> just 300 large, inner-city schools were reduced in size and
> accurately represented in statistical reports, two education think tanks
> announced yesterday.
>
> The Civil Rights Project and Achieve Inc., normally on opposite sides of
> education issues like standardized testing, also said the dropout problem
> could be better addressed if independent organizations collected dropout
> data.
>
> ''There was a substantial decline in the rate of kids that actually
> receive diplomas in the first five years of the 1990s, but that was
> virtually unknown because most of the reports we see are wildly
> inaccurate,'' said Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project.
>
> The findings were among those in 12 reports commissioned for ''Dropouts in
> America,'' a daylong conference that took place yesterday at Harvard
> University's Graduate School of Education.
>
> The topic, as old as school itself, is a hot one these days, as states
> across the country institute tough standardized tests that some observers
> believe will drive up dropout rates even further, especially in
> impoverished districts dominated by minority students.
>
> In Boston, where schools are beginning to cope with the Massachusetts
> Comprehensive Assessment System test, one of the 15 schools examined by
> the report was found to graduate fewer than half its students, a number
> that actually compared quite favorably with other cities.
>
> In Cleveland, for example, 13 of 14 schools examined failed to ferry 50
> percent of their freshman students through to commencement. In
> Indianapolis, it was six of seven schools; in Detroit, 18 of 22.
>
> In each case, the schools enroll more than 900 students and the student
> bodies were more than 90 percent minority.
>
> Although the reports appear to have greatly narrowed the focus of the
> national dropout debate, some in education circles said the groups'
> recommendations were either flawed, old news, or impossible to achieve.
>
> Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City
> Schools, questioned whether an independent body could do a better job of
> assembling dropout statistics than schools themselves.
>
> The problem, Casserly said, is not who is collecting, but what they're
> collecting. ''An objective source does not correct the incomparability of
> the data; it still brings you back to square one,'' he said. ''If they
> collect bad data, it's still bad data.''
>
> The reports also singled out the US Department of Education for failing to
> provide accurate dropout data, and for spending too little money too
> broadly to address the problem adequately.
>
> ''The majority of the 20 dropout programs administered by the ... School
> Dropout Demonstration Assistance Program, which serves 10,000 students,
> made little difference,'' the reports state.
>
> Federal officials said such findings were nothing if not old news. The
> program cited as a failure, a spokeswoman said, was discontinued in 1996.
>
> ''The things they are calling for are the very things this administration
> has been pushing for: schools within schools, smaller class size, and a
> core curriculum with higher standards,'' said spokeswoman Melinda Kitchell
> Malico.
>
> As for the reports' statements that federal data are inaccurate, Malico
> pointed to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics,
> released in February 2000, which said as much.
>
> Still, the reports were likely to add fuel to the growing debate over
> standardized tests, and whether such exams will drive up achievement or
> drive students to drop out.
>
> Renee Williams Hockaday of the National School Boards Association said the
> report will have lasting value if it prompts more accurate dropout data.
>
> ''We all want to know how to help students achieve and graduate,''
> Hockaday said. ''So if a good study gives us accurate information on
> what's happening out there, that's a good thing.''
>
> This story ran on page 6 of the Boston Globe on 1/14/2001.
> © Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

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