No more fuzzy math: All graduation rates in U.S. to be calculated the same way


When other reporters ask me what Oakland’s graduation rate is, I cringe — and not because it’s so low. It’s because the answer is impossibly wonky.

According to the formula used by the California Department of Education, 61 percent of Oakland’s high school students graduated in 2006. For the Class of 2001, it was reported to be nearly 74 percent. But researchers, using a grade-progression formula called the Cumulative Promotion Index, have consistently put it at below half.

A report released today by Colin Powell’s organization, America’s Promise Alliance, (and conducted by EdWeek’s Editorial Projects in Education Director Christopher Swanson) estimated that a mere 46 percent of Oakland’s Class of 2004 graduated on time with a regular diploma.

Neither statistic is remotely encouraging — don’t get me wrong — but researchers have argued for years that some states have hid their dropout problems with fuzzy math and spotty data reporting.

Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced (at the press conference in which the report was unveiled) that all states will soon be required to use the same calculation to report dropout rates for No Child Left Behind. She didn’t say which one.

Of course, until states develop a tracking system to follow individual students, the estimates will still be just estimates. But will a more honest and accurate reporting of data help to solve the dropout crisis in Oakland and other cities? Maybe.

What do you think?

image from Chee Meng Au Yong’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Sue

    Reporting won’t solve the problem all by itself. But if the extent of the problem isn’t being hidden anymore, maybe that will force some sort of action.

  • Caroline

    I never get this, because unless school districts spend money on private investigators, how are they supposed to know what happened to a student who stops coming to school? Having done phone-tree-type calling as a parent volunteer at a diverse urban public school, I can tell you that a big percentage of the calls reach disconnects; go unanswered; get busy signals; get someone who refuses to talk to you; get a non-English-speaker — etc. How exactly would one find out why that particular kid stopped coming to school?

    And Sue, what is “some sort of action”? Exactly, specifically, what would you prescribe for schools to keep students from dropping out?

    I personally would call for the return of serious, effective vocational/technical education and the elimination of the obviously ridiculous notion (promoted only by clueless folks who have no contact with kids and those who maliciously, deliberately use it to attack public education) that all kids should go to college. (I have a nephew, white and from wealthy Bel-Air, son of two doctors, who is a prime example — so this isn’t about race or class.)

    A highly-educated Dutch friend tells me this about the Netherlands’ school system: Students are tracked from middle-school age. Students on the equivalent of the vocational/technical track graduate after the equivalent of our 10th grade. Voila! A higher graduation rate! It doesn’t seem like such a bad plan, either. But knowing that does point up how unrealistic our expectations are.

  • Sue

    I don’t have a specific prescription. I know there’s a problem, but I don’t know how it can be solved. I left my comment vague because I don’t know the answer.

    I think there’s merit in your suggestions.

    I also think there could be occasional problems with them. I was a “late bloomer” and it seems likely that so is my autistic son. Either of us might be, or have been, slotted into “vocational/technical” programs. In my case it would have wasted the potential I finally realized in my early and mid-20s while serving in the Air Force.

    I don’t know what my son’s eventual outcome will be – at 15 it’s too soon to tell – but I don’t want any doors permanently closed to him before he’s grown up and developed enough to know that there’s no benefit to him or our society.

    From what I’ve read of the Federal Education Secretary’s recommendation, the measure would be, how many students started high school against how many graduated four years later. If I recall the numbers from my high school graduating class (Sonora Union H.S., Sonora, CA, 1977) we started with about 400 freshmen, and graduated 289. That’s about 72 percent.

  • http://www.lessonplansforfree.com Bob

    The graduation rate is very low for Oakland students. Is the curriculum harder in these areas? I feel that all schools around the world should have consistent curriculums.


  • Katy Murphy

    Caroline: Exactly. Researchers say the problem with many of the graduation rate formulas is that they rely on an accounting of all of the known dropouts — a nearly impossible task without a state database and unique student identification numbers. (Some formulas also compare the number of graduates to the number of kids in that 12th-grade class, which is problematic b/c many drop outs leave after ninth- or tenth-grades.)

    That’s why the formula that some researchers use, the Cumulative Promotion Index, looks at the size of a particular class over time. It’s more complicated than comparing the size of the ninth-grade class to the number of graduates several years later, but it’s a similar idea.

    There are definitely critics of this progression method. Some point out, for example, that it doesn’t account for kids who have simply transferred to other school districts. But researchers say that in most cases the loss of those students is balanced out by students who transfer IN to the class.

  • Caroline

    It’s still more complicated than some would have it. I graduated from HS in 1971. In that era, it was considered the norm AND NOT A BAD THING for most poor kids and many working-class kids to drop out. I read that the U.S. HS graduation rate only hit 50% after WWII. My grandmother, born in 1899 and raised in the Appalachians, dropped out after 8th grade to go to work in a factory, which is what her family expected of her. It would have been economically unfeasible for her to stay in school and graduate. That was the norm in her family and her culture.

    With blips here and there, the graduation rate today is much higher than it was in the past, and the expectation is now completely different. But there are still cultures taking the attitude that my great-grandparents (who were Irish-American, Appalachian railroad people) did — we need you to go to work; you’re done with school now; any more education would just be a waste of everybody’s time.

    It’s unrealistic to expect the school system to magically transform those historic attitudes, IMHO — and that’s not even taking into account the culture of the street that pulls so hard on inner-city youth. I blogged about African-American Yale professor Elijah Anderson’s book “The Code of the Street,” which addresses the entrenched oppositional, alienated inner-city street culture. It’s just not reasonable to expect educators to fight that or to pin blame on them for not overcoming it. Often that’s a deliberately dishonest, malicious weapon wielded by those who would eliminate public education.

    Here’s my blog item: http://tinyurl.com/2robs3

    I don’t know what the solution is, but just keeping track of the graduation rate and then blaming educators is not it.

  • http://www.mikemcmahon.info Mike McMahon

    Using their narrow defintion of graduation of “on time with a diploma” would mean that college graduation rates are in the teens. Certainly, apples and oranges but the point is narrow, strict defintions gets a DRAMATIC lower percentage that generates press coverage. Here is my research over the past few years on high school graudation rates and reform of high schools.


  • cranky teacher

    Another potential problem with emphaisis on global graudation is it inevitably puts pressure on teachers/administrators to lower standards. If a high school is graded/funded on its graduation rate, it has pressure to support students but also to lower the bar.

    All these numbers are useful as indicators of the scope of the problem, but lose meaning if emphasize them too much. Similar: Decreasing suspensions/expulsions as a measure of success — it only works if school behavior is also improving, rather than just being ignored.

  • Nextset

    Sunshine is a good disinfectant. On one level I’m glad the feds are forcing the municipalities to report the stats including racial stats in education.

    Make no mistake, this data stream – which is unprecedented – will finish the notion that all people are created equal. Only national IQ testing and publication by race would have similar effect. Essentially what they have done is a proxy for IQ. It will be impossible in coming years to continue to find excuses for black failures and Jewish and Asian successes other than those delineated in “The Bell Curve”. especially when the stats are so conveniently served up with SES data. The children of wealthy blacks everywhere do worse than children poor whites (in group numbers). Can we say regression to the norm? Don’t think the fed didn’t know what would happen when they required the keeping and posting of all these stats.

    What we do with the numbers will be decided by the post baby boom generations. I predict that as times get tougher the taxpayers may no longer have the taste for force-feeding academic coursework on those with no aptitude for it, regardless of color.

    The school violence, truancy, suspensions, expulsions and other pathology will continue until the Urban Schools return to meaningful programs that actually fit the needs of the students. And while they are at it, they just might get rid of the current crop of “teachers” and staff the Urban Schools with instructors better suited to the needs of the students. Fewer women, Fewer soft subject teachers, and more men teaching technical, vocational and general ed coursework.

    They can start with making sure every proletariat student in our schools gets Driver’s Ed and Driver’s Training classes so that when they do leave school they have a Driver’s License which is important for work. These licenses have become less common in lower class youth as the public schools decided teaching for them was no longer a mission priority. Likewise training to join the military, job skills in general (typing, etc.).

    I prefer that office and civil service support jobs stop going to immigrants because those who have been here for generations no longer have the basics to get an entry level civil service clerk job, a driver’s licence (required for all Civil Service Jobs), a typing certificate, ability to speak English (not black english…) and a clean record (what’s that!!).

  • Cranky researcher

    Back to graduation rates, from the racist rant above — I think the dropout data is often reliable because it’s only as good as what each school reports and the reporting is uneven. But since some underresourced urban schools are able to track, others should be able to. (Although this will be solved by a CA State ID system for every student, which was supposed to be in place next year but will be delayed at least another year acc to CDE.) I don’t know but I would assume that when a student leaves, their new school requests a transcript – bingo, not a dropout. When you don’t get a transcript request, then you should assume that student dropped out – are they going to a new school and starting from scratch with no HS credit?? If you make a call and get info – they *are* starting fresh in a charter – then take them off the dropout list. Better yet, take the burden off schools by having a central office where all transcript requests are made, and that office can track who is and is not a dropout. Can you investigate this process with principals, Katy?

    Also, in response to Caroline comment above, yes of course we must expect schools to combat ‘street cultural approval’ of dropping out. If schools aren’t convincing students of the value of working to succeed academically, they need to try to engage and motivate students by understanding and responding to their socioeconomic (‘cultural’) context, not using their context as an excuse to abandon them. The street would have students dealing drugs in school – hey, let’s not try to combat ‘their culture’! Cultural relativist amorality. The discipline and support you would want for your kids, you should want for all kids.

  • Caroline

    Re Nextset — ewwww. Miss Manners would say to convey strong social disapproval, so I am doing so. Yuck.

    Re Cranky Researcher — Of course schools should try to combat street cultural approval of dropping out. I’m not saying the street culture is a good thing, obviously (au contraire).

    I’m just saying that it’s expecting too much to blame them for not succeeding. I’m being realistic, not amoral. For many kids from the ghetto, the pull of the street is extremely powerful; it’s the dominant influence in their lives.

    And there are other cultures (including my grandmother’s culture, described above) in which the family expectations are paramount — these are cultures with strong family values. So you’re saying the school should then succeed in saying “ignore your family expectations; turn your back on your family values; listen to us.” It’s not realistic to expect the schools alone to succeed in getting that message across to all students and all families.

  • Nextset

    Caroline: You mistake public discourse for a tea party. I don’t require your social approval and you don’t need mine. We debate policy and ideas for policy. You are not in my society and I am not in yours. But we can all get along. We all use turn signals in traffic.

    Cranky: Love the racist rant comment. We hear that when nothing else is available to debate policy. I approve of the use of a single ID number statewide to identify children as they move through the educational system. Let’s tie it in to DMV’s state ID number, then the kiddies will know early the number by which the state IDs them for life. With the Federally imposed “Real ID” system (on state driver’s licenses an IDs) we will eventually all be using a federal ID number anyway. Frankly, I don’t have a problem with it although there are some drawbacks.

    I’m not kidding about the gathering of race statistics. Many people already know exactly what those stats are going to provide proof of. Emperor’s wardrobe… Well I suppose there’s nothing to do but just face the numbers head on.

    Caroline: I have no problem telling kids to turn their backs on their families’ expectations if those expectations get in the way of living. Actually I have done that pretty bluntly on career day at a local urban high school where I was a speaker on legal careers. It started out with “lose your loser friends” and went on to issues of family not wanting you to leave them behind. I have no problem with schools telling students that their family ways are wrong or bad – if they happen to be. Starting with the use of black english and continuing on to lying, stealing and cheating or tolerating those who do.

    OUSD will not ever do so (correct students) because of moral relativity. Our schools tend to pretend that all people are created equal (they’re not) and that everybody and their ways have to be treated with equal dignity (they don’t).

    When the students have to live in the real world they find out quickly that that has never been true. What I want for the children of Oakland is to be able to move easily from student to worker to taxpayer, fitting right into society and the economy. I’m concerned that that is not a mission priority for OUSD – but maybe I’m wrong. I wish I were.

  • Local Teacher

    Nextset – While I generally disagree with you, I appreciate the way you share your opinions so candidly and without regard to being PC. I find that people can sometimes be a little to concerned with how their ideas and/or opinions will be perceived by others.

    That being said, I completely disagree with all of your comments in the above post with one exception: I think it is a great idea for the feds to standardize the way in which graduation rates are reported, along with the inclusion of racial statistics. I think reporting such data will further illuminate the significant gap that exists between different racial and SES groups.

    However, your assertion that we need to move towards a more vocation/technical educational system is completely absurd. All of our students are created equal – however, in low-income schools, kindergarten students generally enter school already behind. This is not a result of their capacity to learn, but rather the cycle of poverty that exits in our country. It is not impossible to bridge this gap – which I know for a fact since I have done it in my own classroom.

    What you are speaking of, Nextset, is setting low expectations for our students before they even have the opportunity to set their own expectations of what they want out of life. If we begin to track our students into a vocational/technical education, we are setting ourselves (and our students) up for failure. I do not advocate that all of our students need to go to college, but they at least need to have the pre-requisite skills to make that choice for themselves.

    If we want our students to graduate from high school and join the working world – we need to ensure that they have met the highest academic standards.

  • Caroline

    I have no problem telling kids to turn their backs on their families’ expectations either. But kids who grew up in a culture that values family ties, they’re a lot less likely to listen to me, and I’m not totally omnipotent about changing that.

    Similarly, of course I expect schools to try to persuade kids to turn their backs on the street culture. But again, kids who are extremely entrenched in that culture are not that likely to acquiesce.

    I encourage you to read the book I’ve been quoting, “Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City,” by African-American Yale Sociology Professor Elijah Anderson (right now the cheapest used copy via amazon.com is $7.20, if the library isn’t convenient). It shows exactly how pervasive that pull is, and how limited schools’, teachers’ and other do-gooder forces’ power is to change that: http://tinyurl.com/2bmrfz

  • Nextset

    Local teacher: I enjoy the exchanges with students – I have found the classroom speaking experiences so depressing I don’t even bother with it anymore.

    I don’t object to the collection of the racial data. I just believe there is a hidden agenda behind it the public just can’t understand.

    Of course you generally disagree with me. I doubt anyone could remain a OUSD teacher if they mirrored by opinions about life and education. The nice thing about a public blog is that we get to visit with each other’s experiences and walk away.

    Remember, most people like me don’t have an interest in connecting with public education and it’s inmates. All my society attends private schools and universities. We marry only similar social classes. We live in gated communities and places like Piedmont, Belmont and the other monts. We travel. As predicted in “The Bell Curve” American Society is increasingly being segregated by cognitive classes who only associate within their class. The emergence of separate diction, as in the UK, serves to keep social mobility rigid.

    As far as you notions of equality, you are so wrong you become part of the problem. Your beliefs offer harm to your charges. Your policy sets up lower IQ students for disaster by failing to identify and develop those skills and strenghts they do have in favor of flogging them for not improving those they don’t. I believe your notions promote fundamental missmatching of skills and opportunities which leads to anger, depression, violence and failure. Kind of like Affirmative Action.

    I am not about putting lower IQ students in woodshop. I’m about putting IQ 90 students in plumbing, construction trades, auto mech, skilled technician programs, LVN classes, prison guard academies ($100k paychecks) etc. You keep them in academic programs they wind up unemployed and worse.

    I have low expectation of no one. Everybody works. Work is good. They can dig ditches and clean hotel rooms if they chose to but they will learn to do it very well, and promote to supervising ditch digger and housekeeper. Everybody works. Or they can rewire million dollar medical imaging machines. Everybody works, No one should have to live their lives on welfare and in prison because they were neglected as adolescents.

  • cranky teacher

    There is no test that can truly measure what somebody is capable of doing. Nextset’s fascination with the Bell Curve and IQ is just his obsession with black&white thinking (no pun intended).

    Tracking kids early is a crime.

    However, I see no reason why high school kids can’t have more choices. Why is it either/or with vocational training? If you take regular high schools and offer more shop/trade vocational classes, where is the harm? You could even have advanced vocational classes (health, trades, etc) that lead toward vocational credentials in the way AP classes lead to college credit. Some of this is happening, with ROP and other programs. However, it is a lot about money and emphasis.

    I’m too busy to find it but there is a huge study on dropouts recently that says we are focusing too much on trying to get everybody ready for 4-year-college and thus making people feel community college or vocational training is somehow bad, even though 70% students are not on track to succeed in a 4-year-college.

    Finally, MANY of these kids just entered the U.S. educational system at the high school level. If they were undereducated in Mexico or El Salvador (i.e., working in agriculture, etc.), how are they supposed to get caught of to college level in 2-3 years? What’s wrong with saying, we’re going to help you get that electrician credential so you can really boost your dad’s business?

    FYI: Cranky Researcher and I are two different people. Apparently “cranky” is a common feeling around these parts!

  • cranky teacher

    Caroline: I just ordered “Code of the Street”.

    I’m also watching “The Wire: Season 4″ which, most of us teachers agree, is a very accurate portrayal of the different pressures on ghetto kids.

  • Agapemo

    I hope that no one is saying Oakland is “a ghetto” and our children are “ghetto kids”!

  • Nextset

    Cranky: It seems that we are speaking in two different languages. Let’s try it again. It is beyond dispute that Actuarial Science & Psychometrics can accurately predict future group performance to within certain tolerances. Could psychometric instruments have predicted Oprah and Obamas careers? Psychometrics doesn’t work that way and it doesn’t pretend to. You are the one bring up the red herring. I talk group performance and you talk about people one at at time. Policy is not about an individual. How is OUSD going to get all these kids safely into adulthood? They are not doing so well.

    Your refusal to get into the subject is your business. Your attempt to expouse educational policy based on, I don’t know what, is open to review.

    Tracking is important. It should be used. Properly implemented, an educational tracking program is what prevents the disaster we have now where the black students of 2008 have the VD, Prison, unskilled labor and other pathology rates that never existed in the 1st half of the 20th Century. They don’t even graduate with Driver’s Licenses at the rates I believe we had in 1960.

    I’m not saying that we run children through a sorting hat like the Harry Potter movies and assign them a life, and I’m not calling for rigid tracking. I don’t believe in mixing IQs of 80, 95 and 120 from grades 1 to 12 like this system now does. (Of course to some extent we don’t, because the higher IQs tend to vote with their feet and go elsewhere than OUSD.) When you do this (integrate the different performance groups) you have the lower groups getting disaffected, angry and frustrated and acting out. Exactly when (at what grades) you set up culling mechanisms to redirect students, I would leave to the sound discretion of the professionals.

    College preparation is suitable only for a minority of the OUSD clientele (most don’t test out for it). I don’t yet see where OUSD will ever admit this. OUSD needs a mission priority that it’s students will never be unskilled, unemployable, or particularly vulberable to early mortality and pathology. That means putting together curriculum and programs that give them a floor they won’t fall under. You could start with speaking standard english – your OUSD verbal scores are low.

    You think this is black and white thinking…Maybe you haven’t been to the funerals, the prison sentencing hearings, the county hospitals and clinics. I have.

    One thing I know, the students do not run the schools. Period. Nor are we to be running the schools for the student’s current pleasures. Remember the live from the TV show “Fame” where the teacher shouts to her class, Fame costs, here’s where you pay!?

  • Caroline

    Agapemo, I would say that many Oakland students — like many San Francisco students — are “ghetto kids.” It’s through no fault of their own. Again, I recommend “Code of the Street” for illumination of what that’s all about. Denial is not effective, though.

    Nextset, I can believe this about you, but I’m essentially a member of your social class (OK, I don’t live wherever it is in 925-land that you live, but I own San Francisco real estate…) and I work hard to change that attitude. My kids go to urban public school with “ghetto kids” and are safe, smart and well-educated. I believe they’re far, far better prepared for life in the 21st century — and to be productive citizens contributing to the betterment of their community — than cloistered, sheltered, pampered hothouse darlings of Lamorinda and environs.

    “Most people like me don’t have an interest in connecting with public education and it’s inmates. All my society attends private schools and universities. We marry only similar social classes. We live in gated communities and places like Piedmont, Belmont and the other monts. We travel. As predicted in “The Bell Curve” American Society is increasingly being segregated by cognitive classes who only associate within their class. The emergence of separate diction, as in the UK, serves to keep social mobility rigid.”

  • Nextset

    Caroline: We don’t need to compare your Public School kids to the Acalanes or Concord kids, much less the Catholic High School kids. Those numbers are posted in the newspaper and we see who comes in as interns and who doesn’t. We also have no herd of Catholic School kids in the criminal courts getting sent to state prison at 19.

    And as far as your kids going to a ghetto school and being so safe, etc. Good for you, keep on saying that. Maybe it actually true. Don’t know your kids. Do they go to segregated Lowell High or a normal integrated SFUSD school?

    For more than 20 years I have seen in the courts what happens when parents and families don’t proctor who their kids associate with. When you lay down with dogs you get fleas. If your kids school with a group that has problems their chances of getting into said problems increase also. Play the game of life, it’s only a game.

    The danger is especially acute for black children (male or female) who are allowed to identify with thugs. Black professional class families are at the head of the line on “white flight”. They understand exactly how the odds work.

    From your comment I detect a certain animosity towards the Contra Costa County white schools and their kids. Wonder why? Did they do something to you in school?

    Agapemo: I tend to follow Caroline’s comment about OUSD being a ghetto school. By that I mean ghetto culture is dominant or predominant. And that’s a problem because? It is what it is. Fault has nothing to do with it. Individual students are individuals. But the group – well, read the API numbers. Ghetto.

    Now what is OUSD going to do to give these kids a better future than they may have been born into?

    I went to grade school with blue collar children whose parents were store employees, uniformed workers, storekeepers etc. Their grandparents were often immigrants (Italian, Irish, Scottish, Portgugese). We were lined up single file in silence to say the pledge and walk into class. We were called on in class to read aloud, we always sat in assigned seats. It was Catholic Schools in the East Bay from the Albany area to Oakland – cousins went to Catholic Schools in the flats of Oakland and in Berkeley. Did I mention the corporal punishment?

    We were all expected to go further than our parents. They told us that in first grade and all the time afterwards. There were no excuses for proper diction, handwriting, deportment. They didn’t bother the parents at work. If they had to backhand you out of a seat they would and then go on as though nothing happened. You see the same thing in the Harry Potter movie when Professor S smacks the kids caught talking while passing them during a lecture.

    Good Schools are not places for the kid’s comfort zones.

    My point, the families that enroll their kids in better schools with tougher standards are not bad people – they may be ex-hippies, they’re not spoiled and they are not even necesarily republicians. They do know what they want and what they don’t want. And they need no approval from you or anybody else to get it.

  • http://myspace.com/albinoariebizzle Diamond

    Nextset, there is nothing wrong with connecting with public education. I have been full circle: from an Oakland elementary school, a Christian private school, a practically all-white suburban middle school, the suburban high school, and then back to an Oakland public high school. Many believe that one gets a better education if you go to a school in a richer neighborhood. In actuality, one gets a good education by applying themselves, this is no longer about the schools. This is about the students. Adults need to and must make an effort to connect with students in public eduaction in order to figure out what our needs are. You can stay in your “monts” all you want, place your kids in private school and etcetera but the school doesn’t mean a better education. The parent and the student have to be willing to excel in school.

    Also, students with low IQs can certainly excel in life and are not immediately set up for failure. In fact that statemeant seems absurd to me. As a “ghetto kid”, I often see students with low IQs suceeding, maybe not with university degrees or vocational careers or whatever, but through art and persistence among other things.

    There is also no need for you to generalize kids for going to state prison at 18. I know some of those kids and often times they go for reasons ignorantly claimed by prosecutors and whomever else. What does that even have to do with education? You can be a genius and go to prison. I know some of them too. While you definitely know society, you have a little to learn about how things really are in inner citie schools.

  • Agapemo

    Caroline and Nextset,

    The great majority of our children are not “ghetto kids”. The majority of our children has never been suspended, never cursed a teacher, never brought a weapon to school and want (like the adults who serve them) to have school settings where learning is expected and respected.

    If a close examination of the data where possible I believe you would find the large percentage of negative behaviors (and stereotypical activity) is produced by a small percent of students (10-15%?).

    We should not excuse disruptive, uncivil behavior. I feel saying that “many” of our students are “ghetto” is not the solution.

    I will gladly meet with the first ten persons to respond at the KDOL OUSD Studios, (located in the Harper Building on 10th Street across from the Laney Football field) on April 10 from 1 to 3:PM to discuss in detail steps we are taking to improve the lives of children and learn from you how we can improve the important work that we do.

    Send RSVP’s to michael.moore@ousd.k12.ca.us

  • Nextset

    Diamond, we disagree, especially on the prognosis for students with IQ levels of 80-90. I’m not saying they are doomed, quite the contrary. They can support a family and have a life – with training. However if they are in that range, the odds of bad results in the absense of a good vocational program is huge, especially the girls.

    You appraisal of people going to prison because of overzealous prosecutors is nonsense. In San Francisco and Oakland the conviction rates are among the lowest in the state – especially SF. People going to prison in the East Bay work extremely hard at going, usually starting criminality early and having one felony file after another and another. Think of it as a learning disability.

    It’s particularly amusing to see East Bay criminals relocating to the central valley where the 3 strike system is actually applied. They are always full of silly stories about how they were driving the car for the robbery, the drug transportation, or whatever and they didn’t know anything. No one cares. Think of it as evolution in action.

    By the way, I’d have a strong education component in the public schools about how criminal law works with an emphasis on Vicarious Liability. A Year ago I once watched a black 19 year old plead to 50 to life (at 85% minimum) which was a gift, he was facing a mandatory 100 to life at trial. He had no criminal history but went off one fine night with a degenerate “friend” and found trouble when they pulled a gun on women at ATMs that committed sex acts on them. Mother in the court crying, no father – as usual. It never occurred to him that he would get a mandatory consecutive sentence for each penetration & assault his friend did as well as consecutive time for his own acts for each victim, which is how the time stacked up to life effectively without parole. It added up to 100 years min at 85%. Bad day, life’s over. He had no criminal history, not even a traffic ticket. His friend did have priors. Wonder what they thought would happen to them?

    The adolescents I see in court have no clue how draconian CA sentencing has become – which I have no problem with. I’d prefer frequent and public executions on violent criminals. It certainly worked in the 1st half of the 20th Century.

    Anyway, the prison time is in spite of the prosecution giving people breaks at least in the beginning. When people are used to permissive atmospheres in school they try to continue acting out in public. They meet their doom – and the black mortality tables reflect this. And the hallmark of these criminals is a sub-par IQ which is often charted (Juvenile Hall & prison admits are scored for IQ).

    The lack of training and support our low IQ youth gets is a death sentence. Have you seen the new national study on VD rates? Have you noticed the deadly trends in HIV infection for Blacks? Remember, only one in six blacks nationally carries an IQ above 100. The other ethnic groups have different distributions with Asians and Jews carrying an avg of 115 and whites 100 (3 out of 6 at or above 100). These numbers seem to be stable and go back to datasets as far as WWI when the US Army began charting draftees. I make no pretense of my interests in assisting the endangered minorities. The other groups will be fine on their own. The mortality tables and the institutionalization rates concern me. The public schools used to be an institution that promoted upward social mobility. I don’t see the schools caring about that anymore.

  • Nextset

    Agapemo: You made my case for me. A 15% representation of delinquents not brought under strict control, can turn a school into a disaster.

    Reminds me of the sayng about the one rotten apple spoiling the barrel of apples.

  • Caroline

    Saying that many kids are “ghetto” is not a solution, I agree. It’s an articulation of the problem in somewhat-un-PC shorthand. I agree with Nextset that a critical mass of “street”-oriented kids can overwhelm a school, though I wouldn’t know whether 15% is the un-magic number.

    Nextset, my kids don’t go to a “ghetto” SFUSD school. Their schools have been very diverse, with significant representations of all ethnicities and low-income students, but not that critical mass of problem students.

    My kids don’t go to Lowell, but if they did they’d be very much in the minority, since they’re white and it’s overwhelmingly Asian.

    All of this is what “Code of the Street” specifies as well:

    “For more than 20 years I have seen in the courts what happens when parents and families don’t proctor who their kids associate with. When you lay down with dogs you get fleas. If your kids school with a group that has problems their chances of getting into said problems increase also. Play the game of life, it’s only a game.

    The danger is especially acute for black children (male or female) who are allowed to identify with thugs. Black professional class families are at the head of the line on “white flight”. They understand exactly how the odds work.”

    …but the book is very clear that the issues go too deep for teachers, administrators (even wielding baseball bats, Joe Clark-style) or grandstanding superintendents to deal with.

    No, Contra Costa County’s white kids have not done me any harm.

  • Cranky researcher

    Nestset, you seem to take the Bell Curve as scripture, but have you read the many persuasive critiques of its analyses? Bell and Herrnstein greatly downplay evidence – reported in Herrnstein’s earlier work IQ and the Meritocracy – that IQ is significantly malleable in younger children (unlike adults – they look at early adult measures). This does not mean, as you imply, that some individuals will improve but the curve holds, rather it means that investments in schools in poor communities can raise IQ broadly and therefore economic returns significantly to many children. An example: women and men have the same IQ scores roughly, but women are much more likely to be poor than men – why would that be, in your genetic determinism view? It is clearly a matter of policy. (Also there is significant evidence that other environmental factors -nutrition, toxicity such as lead paint, lack of infant nurturing in broken homes – lead to lower IQ. Investments in economic growth would then also increase IQ/ability, and investment in schools can offset these effects to some degree. Investment is called for rather than simply accepting the inequitable status quo through tracking.) However, as you argue, there should be much wider access to vocational tracks for the many students who will not be able to get “college-ready” in school because of a lack of family resources or individual ability, and not just ‘ghetto’ kids. In my white middle class suburban high school, kids with low academic ability studied trades and prospered.

    For some critiques of Bell Curve, see:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2416/ (good overview)


    The book What is Intelligence, which critiques IQ starting from the fact that average IQ has risen steadily in wealthy nations – ie, it is far from a phenom of pure heritability.

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