Hiding school dropout rates

Yesterday’s lead Oregonian editorial correctly credited Mayor-elect Sam Adams with raising awareness of Portland Public School’s 43 percent dropout rate (A mayor in love with numbers). But saying that the number wasn’t well-known previously leaves out the inconvenient truth that much of the mainstream media, including The Oregonian, was partially responsible for our lack of awareness.

News reports often just repeated what the district said its dropout rate was on an annual basis. For example, if the dropout rate was reported to be 9.4 percent, the media wouldn’t take the next step and calculate how many high school freshman didn’t graduate four years later, which in this example would be over 43 percent. You don’t have to be “in love with numbers” to know that this is a horrendous one, and to realize why those in control would want to hide it.

Steve Buckstein is founder and senior policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research center.