Location, size, cost, reputation… graduation rate?

file photo by Anda Chu/Staff

Hypothetical scenario: You’re helping a high school student narrow down her list of prospective colleges. You go over the tuition, admissions standards, location, programs, campus life and size of College A. Do you consider its graduation rate, as well?

What if it’s just 12 percent? Or less than half?

This report by the American Enterprise Institute lists the percentage of students who graduate from each public and private university (grouped by state) within six years. These numbers only include full-time, first-time students, and are based on data reported to the U.S. Department of Education. I know college dropout rates are not a new concern, but the report was still eye-opening to me.

To list a few in California…

Cal State East Bay – 40%
Holy Names University – 36%
Mills College – 57%
Saint Mary’s College – 67%
San Diego State – 56%
San Francisco State – 44%
San Jose State – 42%
Santa Clara University – 84%
Stanford University – 95%
UC Berkeley – 88%
UC Davis – 79%
UCLA – 90%
UC San Diego – 74%
UC Santa Cruz – 68%
University of San Francisco – 65%
State average: 60%

In case you missed my bold font, just 60 percent of kids who enter four-year universities in California graduate within six years. That number doesn’t even include community college dropouts. Obviously there are differences between highly competitive and less competitive universities, but the report found disparities even among schools serving similar student populations.

Are college graduation rates easy to pin down? Would you discourage your friend, child or student from attending a school with a low grad rate?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Nextset

    The other thing you’d better consider if you are working with black students is the black graduation and drop rate.

    UC Berkeley had, I believe, a 7 out of 8 black drop rate in the early ’70s. Don’t know what the number is today. Sending a black student into that back then was pretty dumb. yes, you can always walk around thinking your candidate is special and the odds are meaningless with him/her. That’s exactly how people thought back then. As they say, the results are history.

    When you are dealing with odds like this, the whys are interesting but the bottom line is that you aren’t going to play them unless there is some reason to. In my experience the candidates involved never did their research on such things and were always surprised (when they hit the brick wall) by what everybody else always knew. And that behavior continued in other areas of life too. Or maybe they eventually woke up and became more careful in life.

    Examining the odds particular to your candidates profile is just good survival skill.

  • Donna

    I read a story on this earlier this year, and the gist was that the most competitive schools like Stanford work hard to retain and graduate their students once they have been admitted. The percentages fall in line with my perception of the relative competitiveness of the various schools, except for UCSD; I would have predicted that UCSD would have a higher graduation rate.

    Katy, do you have the figures for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo? SLO is probably the most competitive of the state colleges, but when my brother went there years ago, he had a hard time getting into the classes he needed.

  • Katy Murphy

    Yep, the graduation rate for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is just 66 percent.

  • Gordon Danning

    It is hard to comment unless we know why students do not graduate within 6 years, and what happens to them. Katy seems to assume that they drop out, but that might not be the case; certainly at the high school level, there are many students who attend every day but who do not graduate. Those students are not “drop outs,” hence they are essentially missed by the statistics and hence ignored by policymakers.

  • Katy Murphy

    Some students do transfer to other institutions — and, presumably, graduate. The researchers said that the colleges who did report that information reported few students in that category.

    I agree that it would be good to know what happened to the students who didn’t graduate within six years. I wouldn’t (and didn’t) say that all of them are dropouts.

    On the other hand, it seems reasonable to assume that most students who enter four-year colleges, full-time, probably do so with the intent of earning a diploma. If less than half do so within six years (I’d hate to see that tuition total), it does raise a lot of questions.

  • Donna

    I wonder how family finances and financial aid figures into all this, especially nowadays?

    Also, some of the Cal States accept quite a few students who are required to take remedial classes in English and/or math, so passing those courses could present an insurmountable barrier to some students.

    ucan-network.org lists graduation rates for member private colleges and universities throughout the U.S. as well as sophomore return rates. They list a huge number of schools, but I noticed that Howard, Fisk, Hampton, and Morehouse did not participate and that the data for Spelman was not up to date.

  • Nextset

    The other red flag about the black colleges is their huge student loan default rates. As a rule any school or college that has a student loan default rate above a certain cut off is terminated from federally insured student loan participation in the future. This is to protect the loan program and to protect the students from getting into a school where the prospects of making a living are so poor selecting that school is a waste of money. My reading indicates that all the historically black colleges are on waivers from the mandatory FISL program default limits all non black schools are under.

    If you are working with a students, say black students from OUSD, finding the college programs that fits them and makes sense (in time to get the applications out to a variety of schools) – is more than a notion. They may have acceptances from schools that want them for stats knowing the odds are problematic.

    Like every other big decision, information is power.

    Some students and families are mainly out for maintaining their comfort zone. Some are more calculating and ready for a calculated risk. The most fantastic careers I’ve seen have been from the calculated risk people. But these people all went to white high schools.

    The students I know of from racially segregated high schools tend to want colleges where they can continue to segregate themselves – at the least into black dominated dorms/football teams etc. And often to the HBCs.

    One of the more intriguing things about the Military and the Service academies is how they have handled the racial integration issues. Perhaps the uniforms help. And uniform standards. These are abhorred in the public schools where standards & morals are relative & situational.

    Back to the thread: I think experienced guidance counselors are key to making good decisions in the short time families have to place their kid.

  • Debora

    Even with a transfer rate, six years is a long time to take to get a four year degree. Many of my peers had to work at least 3/4 time and get student loans and still managed to graduate in 5 or 6 years.

    I think there are several things that come into play. Parents and students want to go to a “name brand” school whether or not it is a good fit. Students and their parents do not pay attention to whether small class sizes matter to a particular student’s learning style, whether noise makes a difference, whether they need to be able to live at home and have daily contact to concentrate on learning or whether they still need to have an adult track their attendance, assignments and grades.

    Students whose grades were inflated to keep them motivated in public school BELIEVE they are A or B students because they have been told so, however, in college they find that they do not have the support system in place (parent reminders, teachers calling parent-teacher conferences, online checking of assignments and attendance) to succeed. As we discussed on previous entries, many high school students do not have the self-discipline developed to follow through on commitments. Highly competitive college attendance is not the time to master motivation. That should have been in place a nearly a decade before.

    I think it is difficult for many people to hear, but often, for those students who have not yet mastered test taking strategies, self-discipline and for whom there is suspected grade inflation, a junior or community college is probably the best option. Mastering these skills in the local community college puts students on the fast track to the UC system at about half the cost.

    It would be interesting to compare the graduation rates from the UC system of students (particularly students of color) who leave OUSD to move from community colleges to the UC system vs those who go directly into the UC system.

  • Nextset

    Debora: Here’s an interesting take on this college placement thing.

    Some students need to get out of their homes to go to college because their homes are (bad) not conducive to college completion. It’s not that they aren’t loved – it’s that discipline thing. It’s easy to place Eagle Scouts and Paperboys.

    It may be that college – even Jr college – is antogonistic to the class and culture the student comes from and in placing the student in college there is a socioeconomic class reach. Staying at home prevents the adjustment required to fit in and complete education – and it’s time for “sonny boy” or the “little girl” to leave and not keep in close touch.

    Samer thing happens with inpatient rehab. You can’t let them have phone calls, visits and letters from their homies and crew because they can’t change when their posse is co-signing all the BS attitudes that got them/kept them where they came from.

    In my business and experience I have no illusions and no rose-colored glasses about home environments that are going to get in the way of staying out of trouble or changing into something better. I tell people it’s time to move/divorce/separate/grow up/graduate/change or whatever. Some of them get the point. Even I’m impressed when some of them make the change so total their new friends and family never realize where they came from (tobacco road to corporate America). Must be nerve-racking. You cannot have a foot in the two worlds sometime, you won’t be tolerated in your new world if you try.

    I spoke at a (lower class) public high school career day on occasion in the past. I was sent to the room where the kids want to be lawyers. I wasn’t happy and the lack of color (especially boys) but you work with what you have to work with. I do make it clear to the wanna-bes that if they want the professions such as law they had better plan to lose their loser friends and family – at least long enough to get the occupational license. It’s not that they don’t love you – but they don’t want to lose you and if that means sabotoging your career that’s what will happen.

    In my experience the racially isolated black kids who wanna-be tend to wear better if they go to the HBCs. And that does mean getting your bag together and leaving home and living at school. CA is so far away from the HBCs that they won’t be coming home for 3 day weekends either. An alternative for the racially isolated kid is the racially isolated sports team at a white school with a Coach from central casting who manages the entire life of the team members (make sure the graduation rate for that program is acceptable if you want the diploma).

    I wish there was more plain talk for the students about class and society and occupations so the kids wouldn’t think they are the only ones dealing with this issue. It’s painful to watch a lower class individual trying to make it into a higher class occupation oblivious to the unwritten rules and getting forcefully shut out with no clue as to what is happening or going to happen. Knowledge is power and it’s cheap also.

    And I’m not talking about brain surgery here, just getting into/staying into service & union jobs such as police clerk or dispatcher, bank clerk or hospital worker. I’ve known people fired from & barred from all these positions for lifestyle and judgment issues.

    Discipline and deportment gets more important as the students pass 18 and try to make it into occupations. It is important for staying in college also. These kids have to learn it. If you are a guidance counselor working high school kids this factors in placing them.

    The HBCs have always acted as finishing schools for urban blacks. Too bad the urban public schools won’t do some of the finishing first. The HBCs are under a lot of stress and may not survive. OUSD won’t even do the “finishing” Heald Business College does.

  • Rene Maher

    Dear Katy:
    The graduation rates you posted do not surprise me at all. My children all went to Catholic schools that are essentially private schools. Because tuition is paid, the administration and teachers understand that essentially they are working for the parents. The private schools have a vested interest in having their students succeed. The public schools, universities included, are jaded, tired public employees who are dependent upon politicians for their salaries. Their lack of control over school funding translates into apathy towards student success. The CSU system coddles its Freshman by giving them the opportunity to register for classes before all other undergraduates. Then comes the students’ second year registration, and they experience the “sophomore screw”. The sophomores are the last to register for classes. It is no surprise that enrollment for sophomores throughout the CSU system declines. Frequently, these sophomore will drop out of the CSU system, attend a community college for their second year GE classes, and reenroll for their junior year. This doesn’t make any sense at all. It is no wonder it takes six years to graduate instead of the normal four years.

  • Caroline

    Discussion of this study when it first came out addressed the fact that the supposed lower graduation rates tended to correlate with the number of students working and attending college.

    Colleges with a high number of students working their way through school (which tends to make it hard to breeze through in four years) get hammered unfairly, while colleges with a high number of wealthier students who don’t have to work or worry about how the tuition gets paid come out looking great.

    Some colleges are specifically designed to help students who are working day jobs get degrees, which is — by design — expected to take longer than four years.

    Is it fair or valid to blast those colleges? Obviously not. In fact, it’s completely distorted and misleading to compare them to colleges that operate in a different way.

    I’m not familiar with some of the colleges on this list, such as Holy Names, but I have friends who have put themselves through USF by attending night school while working day jobs. It’s perfectly legitimate for them to take longer than four years. USF makes that happen for them. So is it fair or valid to blast USF for that? Obviously not.

    I would bet a donation to your local PTA (support our public schools!) that Holy Names is set up like that too.

    Katy, the press needs to be a lot more skeptical of the dishonest and distorted crap coming out of these right-wing supposed think tanks* — though why this one would decide to attack colleges, including private and Catholic colleges, is a little unclear. I imagine it’s all designed so they can blast public schools for the “failures,” in the end.

    Sorry to be so blunt, but honestly, with these alleged think tanks, assume maximum skepticism or you risk passing on misleading information.

    *The term “think tank” is misleading; these are advocacy organizations. They are not conducting impartial research, as they would like the public to believe; they are putting out material in support of their positions.

  • Caroline

    Yes, this is from the Holy Names University website:

    Admission Requirements as an Adult Learner

    Holy Names University welcomes adult students in the Adult Baccalaureate Degree completion program. Flexible formats are designed specifically for adults who are motivated to complete a university degree while continuing to meet work and/or family obligations.

    Also, Rene, I find your comments very offensive, as well as unfounded, untrue, unkind and un-Christian. It’s completely invalid to attack public school teachers in such a manner. It’s also nonsensical in context of the bogus American Enterprise Institute report, as two of the colleges that come out looking worst on Katy’s list (for unfair reasons) are Catholic. You owe public school teachers an apology.

    Meanwhile, again, the report is barely worth using as toilet paper. The press should use much better judgment when determining whether to give credibility to such material.

  • Nextset

    Caroline: Why do you insist on complaining that Rene’s comments are “offensive”? They’re hardly an insult – and she is entitled to her opinion and to express her experience. We are here to get that information. If you are “offended” that is certainly no problem for anybody else. Be offended. That’s not a bad thing.

    Public school teachers and educrats need the feedback of reading the experience and opinions of the public so you can judge the effects of the school policies you own and operate.

    Rene’s comments that the Catholic Schools are working for the parents and the public schools work for no one (themselves, maybe?) seemed especially insightful.

    No Rene doesn’t own you or the public school teachers apology. You need to reconsider your position – and who you work for.

    Someday soon this public school disaster of education is going to fall down and go boom. It’s becoming too much like Russian Car Factories in a free market.

  • Katy Murphy

    The figures used in this report were taken from the U.S. Department of Education. I disagree that a report that lists the six-year graduation rates (not four-year, as Caroline described when talking about USF) for most colleges in the U.S. is “barely worth using as toilet paper.”

    (Also, the data only reflect full-time, first-time students, so those working while going to school part-time don’t show up in these numbers.)

    If only 12 percent or 40 percent of students at a school graduate within six years, there might well be valid reasons. But if I were a high school student or parent, it’s information I’d certainly like to have — to ask the college about, if nothing else.

  • Debora


    It appears that you did not read Katy’s entry well. The drop out rate is based on graduation within SIX years. That is well within the grasp of working adults. I know, I worked 40+ hours per week while earning my degree.

    The truth is, as we have witnessed numerous times, that we do not expect our high school students to be disciplined. We expect that they will miss deadlines; we expect parents must monitor their grades, homework, assignments and attendance to make sure that students are on schedule. These are elementary school habits. By the time a student is in middle school, they should have the self-discipline and self-motivation to do their best work, achieve the highest grades they are capable of earning, complete their homework and return it on time to the teacher, check in with a teacher if the grade or work is not up to expected standards, attend school every day, on time and by middle school, students should guide the student/parent/teacher conferences.

    By guiding the conferences I mean that students should check in with each teacher as to their performance, schedule and expected duration of the conference in all of their classes, then they should work with teachers and parents to coordinate a time. Parents, teachers and students should be in the room hearing the same thing at the same time.

    It your student is not prepared to complete all of the items listed in this entry, my guess is that they will have a very difficult time completing college in SIX years.

    What I see for our students, particularly for those in OUSD, is that we start from kindergarten and move forward one year at a time in our thinking, our behavior and our expectations. What successful parents and students do that is different from the majority of families is they start from college and work backward so that they know what the benchmarks are in each grade or level to achieve their goals.

    This is probably the mentality of the parochial schools that Rene has referred to in the entry. Smart families of smart students of smart schools begin with the end in mind.

  • Nextset

    The rate of students failing to finish within 6 years (assumning they didn’t graduate elsewhere) is a reflection of how serious they were about graduating in the first place.

    Some schools screen admissions to take serious students, some don’t. That is a political and economic decision by the school. Enough is known about statistics to profile the successful student at admission and deselect the unserious. For various reasons the schools want some students who are not as serious. Some schools need to fill every seat they can or they wouldn’t survive at all. To each his own.

    It is easy to identify serious students. Very easy.

    I see plenty of people who start on an academic course with no serious plan or prospect of finishing it. They have their good reasons too. When they no longer get enough out of the program (to keep them going) they leave. Is that such a bad thing?

    Obviously admissions should prioritize the applications but if there is room left over for the less serious, they get admitted.

    Even in the Nursing programs.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com Sharon

    This topic reminds me of “Foresight,” an aptitude tested by the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation, an organization that’s been studying and testing aptitudes for years. You can look them up online. J O’C is not IQ or personality testing.

    Their definition of Foresight is “the ability to focus on distant goals.” They believe that different people naturally have different amounts, and the inherent differences must be respected and adjusted for. Foresight, as with each and every aptitude, can be useful for some pursuits, but not for all. I have no idea how genetics play out in all of this. The premise of J O’C is that aptitudes are innate, so it’s questionable that High Foresight can be planted in children’s brains, just as Foresight can’t be removed if someone happens to have a lot of it.

    High Foresight helps in achieving long range career objectives. As their website says: “For instance, a medical student may spend twelve or more years in college, medical school, internship, residency, and post-residential training programs before attaining full qualification for a chosen specialty. People who score low will often turn away from distant goals and seek those which are more immediately obtainable, especially in the face of frustration and difficulty.”

    High Foresight is something that people have, or not. Not everyone has the ability to focus on the distant goal of becoming a neurosurgeon, or even finish college. Perhaps what we need to be talking about is more alternative-to-college pathways that are economically respected and socially respectable.

  • Debora

    Sharon: I agree with you completely. However, what that means is that we should not steer a student with Low Foresight into a rigorous, long-term program at Stanford, UC Berkeley or similar institution. Those positions should be granted to someone with High Foresight.

    Even someone with Low Foresight should be able to see a three week goal by middle school. Yet, I am finding on this blog that even high school teachers are very forgiving for the lack of three and four week foresight.

    I would also like to submit for thought that foresight is influenced by electronics use in infancy and preschool years. With over an accuracy rate of over 99%, I can tell a student who was allowed to watch TV, play video games or “smart or educational” electronic games before age 3 within 5 minutes of observation. Almost always these children do not speak in complete sentences, scramble their ideas and thoughts without either a progression toward a conclusion or filling in a “story” as though a jigsaw puzzle (this is often done by gifted children when explaining an idea and wanting to hold the attention of a listener) and/or their ability to stay on task for 30 minutes or more is quite limited – this can be said whether the student is first grade all the way through high school.

    Just a thought. . .

  • Caroline

    I read a lot of coverage of and debate about the report when it was originally issued, a few months ago.

    I’m not saying the figures aren’t accurate; I’m saying the interpretation is not valid and the source that issued it is not credible. Katy, seriously — responsible and intelligent journalists like yourself need to help guide your less clued-in colleagues to understand that these advocacy organizations promoting their own agendas shouldn’t be described as “think tanks,” and their advocacy papers shouldn’t be presented as though they were credible academic research. They simply aren’t.

    One response I read to the original report came from a school that was listed as one of the very lowest in the nation (perhaps it WAS the lowest) for 4-year graduation rates. It’s in Washington state and is designed entirely for working adults, with sites in locations close to many workplaces. Their response echoes what I said — the college is specifically designed for those who may well need to take several extra years to get their degree while working, and it’s unfair and misleading to hammer the school for that.

    Debora, you are obviously a very high-energy and effective person. I don’t work full-time now, but I did for many years, and no possible way could I have handled attending college full time while also working 40+ hours. I would have collapsed. I think more people are like me than like you, and that it’s no discredit to those of us who are not superhuman — and certainly not to the colleges that accommodate those working students’ needs.

    Katy, I’m not convinced that this is accurate: “… the data only reflect full-time, first-time students, so those working while going to school part-time don’t show up in these numbers…”

    … based on the coverage and discussion that I read about the report previously. If it were accurate, how did they single out a school (the one in Washington, whose name I forget) that’s entirely geared toward part-time attendance for the top spot in the Hall of Shame?

    Nextset, why can’t I complain that Rene’s remarks were offensive if I found them so?

  • Nextset

    Caroline: To answer that last question: Your “offensive” is another person’s “interesting point”. By asserting your offense in public discourse you ask us to adopt your personal value set rather than an objective one. For example, orthodox blacks are “offended” by anything that touches their racial defenses regardless of the merits of the point. Which is why they don’t get to play at the table with adults in general society.

    Your “offended” reactions avoid rational and calculated objection. They derail civil discussion. Nothing personal – it is a common thing taught in the schools. If people don’t like the way a debate is going they start howling and drowning the debate out with emotional responses. Quite common now in some circles.

    At least that’s my point. Normally I wouldn’t even bother…. But the longer debate can be maintained the more I can find something to make me recheck at thought or an issue. And I need to hear what is going on in the schools to try to understand how these people I deal with in the courts get to be so impaired in their functioning.

    As a rule the defendants in criminal cases are products of the urban public schools. So are nearly all of the victims. I think more and more of what we are seeing is driven by class (as shown by their schools). They even have their own language.

  • Caroline

    I’m giving my opinion, Nextset. That’s what everyone does in these discussions — every participant is asking others to “adopt (his/her) personal value set rather than an objective one.” Is there even such thing as an objective value set? Seems like a contradiction in terms.

    I often disagree with you, but you’re almost always sensible. The view that I’m somehow wrong to express my distaste for that poster’s offensive and uninformed comments about public school teachers is out of character for you. Disagree and argue with me — fine — but don’t tell me I have no right to express my opinion.

    In any case, if we were to accept the thesis of the original alleged “study” that the colleges listed are bad, bad, bad for not graduating more students “on time,” let’s note that the school on the list with the lowest graduation rate is CATHOLIC (Holy Names University). So how does the offensive public-school-teacher bashing jibe with that?

    I ask despite the fact that I don’t think the alleged “study” is valid and have sharply criticized Katy and the rest of the press for treating is as though it were. But for those of you who buy the alleged “study,” how come you’re not bashing Holy Names and its Catholic-ness? The public-school basher whose public-school-teacher-bashing offended me is even a self-described promoter of Catholic education. ???

    Nextset, regarding the following claim, it’s the classic example of the principle that correlation doesn’t equal causation:

    “As a rule the defendants in criminal cases are products of the urban public schools. So are nearly all of the victims.”

    Here are the facts:
    — Low-income people are far more likely to attend public than private school, for obvious reasons.
    — Families in low-income areas with troubled schools could seek out private school options with scholarships, but less-functional, more-challenged families are far less likely to do so. The most dysfunctional, challenged families are certainly not going to do so. Yet their children are required by law to attend school, so of course it’s public school.
    — People who grow up in low-income, less-functional, more-challenged families are far more likely to become defendants in criminal cases (and victims). Those are ALSO the people who are likelier to have attended public schools, through no “fault” of the schools.

    Blaming teachers and schools for that situation isn’t valid, fair or rational.

    It’s magical thinking to believe that teachers can take children who face that many obstacles — whose life circumstances make them extremely likely to be part of the “incarcerated class” — and miraculously compensate for the challenges of their lives.

    Low-income students who attend private/parochial schools or charter schools such as KIPP that require any effort to seek out and apply, inherently come from families that are high-functioning and motivated enough to make the effort. Thus, those students are already, inherently less likely to be doomed to the “incarcerated class.”

    Back to the original “study” — it troubled me that colleges that accept students who are more likely to face challenges, including the simple logistical challenges of being a working student, get bashed by the “study.” Inherently, that discourages colleges from accepting students who are likely to face challenges.

    As a veteran newspaper journalist, I’ve come to believe that the press needs to be responsible and consider the results of its news decisions, given that there’s judgment involved here. So, is discouraging colleges from accepting students who are likely to face challenges really something the press thinks is a sound and responsible thing to do?

    In addition, again, these “think tank” “studies” are not inherently scholarly academic research — again, they’re advocacy. I don’t think it’s responsible of the press to just blindly promote a well-funded advocacy organization’s propaganda, and it’s inaccurate and wrong to present it as scholarly academic research. (Yes, I know these are documented statistics, but it’s the iNTERPRETATION of the figures that’s at issue here.) And it’s not like this is inherently breaking news that has to be covered — there’s a judgment call here.

    Inherently, this news coverage promotes the view that colleges should go back to accepting only the privileged, like in the good old days when the poor and dark-skinned knew their place. I assume that’s part of the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute’s agenda in promoting this “study.” Is that really something the responsible press should be pushing?

  • Cranky Teacher

    Caroline, that was masterful. Bravo.

    Teachers are being blamed often for a system and situation — even whole swathes of our culture — they do not manage or “own.”

    And, yes I know about the unions. If you saw how weak they really are many of you might back off that red herring. Job security is the bone they were thrown overworked, underfunded districts which could never afford to keep teacher pay comparable to that of other public employees.

    Also, in all this cheering of parochial schools are we really so naive after the epic molestation revelations to see their unchecked authoritarian structure staffed by nearly free labor as a pure good? I had a super-mediocre public school education but at least I never had a priest fondle me or a nun tell me I was going to hell for going throuugh puberty!

    Uh-oh, now THAT was offensive.

  • Nextset

    Caroline: Too much to process in a moment – have to deal with a mess in a courtroom for the day. Will respond when I can process.

    But: The Catholic schools used to take the most blue collar ethnic mix – in the urban areas – and turn out people who could advance their families up the ladder to the professions. My classmates were the children of butchers, bakers, millworkers, carpenters. The were ethnics the WASPS didn’t care for at all. My odler siblings and cousins went to St Columba’s (sp?) in the flats of Oakland. We all had black classmates in the catholic schools. We got to wave at each other in Universities years later.

    Despite the molesting priests and violent nuns those schools did a lot of good teaching kids academics and getting them college and work ready. And I know they seriously cared about the future of their students. They were into placing their kids in the next school and up to the next level.

    I don’t see that in OUSD/Urban schools. For whatever reason.

  • Katy Murphy

    Cranky Teacher: Are you suggesting that non-parochial schools are essentially creep- and pervert-free? Did you see the Associated Press report on sexual misconduct in 2007?


    For the record, I attended Catholic school for five years (grades 1-5) and public school for eight.

  • Caroline

    Of course public schools are not creep- and pervert-free — nothing and no place is. But the Catholic church has an extreme and pervasive problem.

    Plus, of course, there’s the factor that Catholic parents have historically tended to put great trust in their priests, and plus the church is supposed to be all about promoting righteous behavior and fighting sin and all that, PLUS there’s the whole celibacy thing going on. So the high perv problem particularly stands out when it’s in direct contradiction to the entire mission. And it’s much harder for the victims to deal with when the abuser is supposed to be their spiritual leader and is so greatly trusted and all that.

    That said, I’m not the one who brought up the Catholic perv factor, and wouldn’t have brought it up, for that matter.

    I agree that parochial schools have provided a solid education to the working class, of course. They still have the advantage of being able to weed out the most troubled and disruptive students, and they don’t deal with the “incarcerated class,” the most challenged and alienated of the low-income inner-city.

    The diocese in San Francisco was operating some schools catering specifically to the African-American community, but shut them down because of low achievement and too many disruptive, challenging students (I have inside information from the former principal of one of those schools). The public school system has to continue to deal with the low achievement and the disruptive, challenging students, of course.

    But all that said, it STILL makes no sense that a study (however invalid) that showed that the “worst” of the college dropout problems was at a Catholic college would prompt an attack on public school educators, and I’m not letting the basher off the hook for that.

  • Katy Murphy

    Caroline: In an earlier post, you questioned whether the report did, in fact, include only full-time, first-time college students. Here’s an excerpt from the methodology section (Page 5):

    “In our analysis, we use the most widely known
    and, indeed, legislatively defined graduation rate. In
    1990, reflecting a growing interest in student outcomes, Congress passed the Student Right-to-Know
    (SRK) and Campus Security Act (Public Law 101-542)
    as an amendment to the reauthorization of the 1965
    Higher Education Act. The SRK law requires that all
    colleges report graduation rates to the National Center
    for Education Statistics (NCES) for their students
    to receive federal financial aid. The SRK graduation
    rate is defined as the percentage of that cohort of fulltime beginning students that graduate in 150 percent of the “expected” time that it should take to complete a degree. For a bachelor’s degree, which traditionally has taken four years, the SRK graduation rate is therefore based on graduation within six years.

    Because it does not include students who do not fit
    the definition of full-time, first-time, degree-seeking
    students, this official graduation rate covers only
    about a quarter of full-time students enrolled in
    American higher education. It is also an “institutional
    graduation rate” rather than a “total” graduation
    rate. This is because students who do not
    graduate from the school at which they started may
    eventually graduate from another college or university.
    The Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal
    Study: 1996–2001, conducted by NCES, shows
    that many students switch institutions and then
    graduate, often taking longer than the six-year cutoff.
    This survey suggests that the “individual graduation
    rate” is about 8 percent higher than the average
    institutional graduation rate.

    Despite its limitations, the SRK graduation rate is
    the only common metric available for comparing
    graduation rates across the nation’s array of institutions of higher learning. Moreover, this measurement reflects a fundamentally important aspect of institutional performance.”

  • Caroline

    Thanks. So I don’t know how that jibes with the fact that the report hammers schools like Holy Names that make a point of (or are even specifically designed for the purpose of) accommodating students with day jobs and allowing them to pursue higher education despite the need to work.

    I stand by my comments, though. The report seems designed to attack, disparage and discredit schools that accommodate students who face challenges, as opposed to the privileged white elites who in the past were the social class expected to attend college.

  • Cranky Teacher

    I really have nothing against parochial schools. Some of my friends who weren’t catholic got a lot out of them. Other friends are priests, yadda yadda.

    However, I do believe that a hierarchical and non-democratic institution like the cath church is going to be more prone to potential abuses in all directions than a system with more checks and balances, like the schools which have elected officials, unions, etc. What really freaked folks out about the molestation scandal was the institutional cover-up of thousands of crimes and the shuffling around of abusers, even to be working with children over and over again. Show me one time in public education where anything remotely like that has happened in our lifetimes. We’ve all seen a single accusation instantly end a teacher’s career in the public schools, the very opposite of what happened in the church institutions.

    On the other hand, there are some clear efficiencies to dictatorship, as seen with the American Indian schools and their knockoffs. Parochial schools had to answer to nobody, allowing them, for example, to use paddling long after that had been deemed child abuse by the public schools (and their lawyers). And they have been able to provide a price point between prep and public schools by controlling highly-educated yet bargain-priced permanent servants — the clergy — as well as receiving tithes.

    My real point, though, was not to rip the church schools but to play devil’s advocate: If folks are going to make sweeping negative generalizations about public schools, then we can make them about parochials, or charters, or whatever. I’m sure some Catholic schools are very democratic and some public schools very dictatorial. People like Nextset only deal in absolutes, in keeping with the general political tone of the country these days, I suppose.

    [Question for Nextset: If the public AND parochial schools of his era were so great for “the proles” why did their family and economic structures go to pieces? Why didn’t the products of those schools raise a great generation? Mighty be loophole in this whole nostalgic fantasy. And yes, I know your answer is probably going to blame the hippies and the white liberals and all that. But it doesn’t add up.]

    I don’t see much point in any of that oversimplification. For example, I’m not against “school choice” in the way my union is — as a parent, I want choices, too — but then I also think a lot of supporters of school choice are naive about the very real conservative and corporate privatization agenda behind that movement.

    And if we are going to have charters, then who gets to decide what is OK and what is not? Arne Duncan? The testing services? Case in point: Oasis lost its charter this year basically for being what it wanted to be: a completely alternative and non-standards based school designed to save lives of seriously at-risk youth by getting them re-engaged with the project of learning, rather than try to prepare them for standardized tests.

    Now, I have no idea if they were doing a good job, but it seems that their closure based on a lack of focus on standards and tests is a bit hypocritical — no actual abuse was found and the school and its students/families wanted to continue. Why were they singled out? Apparently they had high admin turnover — which describes most of the schools in Oakland.

    This kind of stuff makes teachers fear “choice” is just a cover for cost-cutting, testing-based education and funneling tax monies to corporations. Even paranoids have enemies…

    The bigger irony of constantly ripping public schools is that for most Americans they believe their local suburban school basically works, and it happens to be free.

    (Personally, I think even suburban schools, public and private, could be a LOT more lively and relevant and intellectually challenging, but I’m a “cranky” person and didn’t think much of school until college.)

    In Oakland, on the other hand, and cities like it, a lot of things haven’t gone well for a long time, not just schooling. The police aren’t so good, the politicians are muddlers when they’re not crooks, and a significant number of folks have cut themselves off from the idea of ever leaving “the hood.” The state of the schools reflect that reality, as well as others, such as the cost of living here in relation to a teacher’s salary, held down by Prop. 13 and so on.

  • Nextset

    Cranky: I’m worn out from today so I can’t even get into most of the post but you did ask something about what happened to the “proles” I went to grade school with.

    The answer is that they (for the most part) permanently moved up the socioeconomic ladder. Many of my grade school Catholic friends were working class Irish and Italians. Their grandparents didn’t even finish high school. Their parents typically did not finish college if they even went. The mothers were housewives. The families were blue collar, union and service workers. If the father had a college degree – and some did – they got it through the GI Bill after military service.

    Many of them are currently living in mid to high 6 figure + houses in Danville and the like with both spouses having college degrees, 2 kids, professions. Some are running family businesses that are in the 3rd generation or more. They have done well. Some of the classmates are civil servants who have done well. You get the picture? For the most part, the children of the Drs and Lawyers became – Drs and Lawyers. Lots of Nurses are in the mix also. In the generation under me all the women work but they make serious money. There was a (5th grade classmate) female getaway driver for a 7-11 robbery. I like to think of her as management in her own field also. Knowing her, she picked the stores. These people generally don’t live in Piedmont, that would mean giving up the Tahoe house.

    My own Grandfather and Grandmother on one side were an Iceman and a Laundress. I can relate to the social mobility thing. It’s nice when you’re experiencing it. I would not have had fun in that world. But they never went to Catholic Schools or a day of college. My parents and their generation did that.

    Despite the Priests issues – and in hindsight the Nuns kept them well in check (I think there was a Nun escort if they set foot on the property) – my Catholic classmates were never raised by my school to think of themselves as an object of pity – or as “victims” – we were always competitive and always ready to try to push the envelope to get what we wanted. It’s not like the Nuns were going to give you anything for existing. And we learned how to speak in public and hold up under interrogation also.

    We were always told we were better than the public school kids and had better live up to it.

    If I walk into a typical OUSD class and ask a student what day it is, will they complain they are being picked on? Last time I was a public speaker in a public school class I got a class list and started questioning the students by name about something (simple). They didn’t take it too well.

    It’s a difference I see. Shows up in job interviews also.

    Cranky: Are my experiences something you haven’t heard of before? Have you any experience with catholic education?

  • Cranky Teacher

    Apples and oranges, as usual. Those kids still exist — they go to Bishop O’Dowd and St. Mary’s, etc.

    Some of them also attend Skyline and Tech, tech, too.

    Kids being taken care by parents who are not rich, but are stable enough — financially, emotionally — to maintain a focus on long-term goals, apply for scholarships, etc.

    They are NOT the kids who would freak out if you call on them in class. They are NOT the kids standing on corners all day after dropping out in tenth grade, their pants around their thighs. They are NOT the kids who get kicked from one school to the next until they give up on the whole enterprise.

    You have never admitted that you and your peers had huge advantages over a lot of these kids you rip and the teachers that teach them.

    The typical flatland OUSD class is a troubled melange of kids who are likely to have been or are in foster care, have a history of physical and/or sexual abuse, are being pressured to join or are in gangs, are living with a single parent or guardian who is either working two jobs or is dealing drugs or sex. The vast majority were not read to as children and have no significant “academic” or intellectual life before arriving for kindergarten. The schools they will sit in have an ANNUAL teacher and principal turnover rate of from 15-40% — no nuns under a lifetime contract here.

    Does this sound like YOUR experience?

  • Nextset

    Cranky: I’ve not kept up on your point here.

    Your post above speaks of UNDERCLASS kids – they are below the proles. To put it mildly they are not college material, they are prison material.

    I don’t care much about the underclass. Getting rid of them is what abortion, birth control and such is all about. Failing that, we have prison, capital punishment, and abolition of welfare, elimination of free health care, starvation, sickness and death in store for them. The underclass has no future.

    It’s the Proles I’m concentrating on. These are the working poor, the immigrants, people that in few generations may move up the ladder of this society. these are your soldiers, service class, your blue collar and tradespeople. These people form families and take care of themselves, their things and their people. They (the proletariat) need a primary and secondary education that allows them basic social mobility and places them on the job ladder. This is the highest duty of OUSD. One OUSD used to do well.

    The college bound are fewer and for the most part can take care of themselves. The underclass are in the world in the way and you can’t do anything for them as long as they refuse to change what they are.

    The Catholic Schools distained the underclass and wouldn’t have them near their kids. But the Catholic Schools were made for the Proletariat. Thing is, when the got through with them they (largely) wound up in the Middle Class. It is only lately that the Catholic Schools have become a white flight refuge – if that’s going on in your town. My experience is that the Catholics were full of ethnic Polish, Irish, Hispanic, and every other Democratic Party Coalition member group who weren’t exactly welcome at Claremont Country Club.

    So back to OUSD and the other urban schools. Who are they here to serve and what are they doing (what value are they adding) for their customers? The colleges that pick up after high school, same question.

  • Nextset

    Cranky: I’ve not kept up on your point here.

    Your post above speaks of UNDERCLASS kids – they are below the proles. To put it mildly they are not college material, they are prison material.

    I don’t care much about the underclass. Getting rid of them is what abortion, birth control and such is all about. Failing that, we have prison, capital punishment, and abolition of welfare, elimination of free health care, starvation, sickness and death in store for them. The underclass has no future.

    It’s the Proles I’m concentrating on. These are the working poor, the immigrants, people that in few generations may move up the ladder of this society. these are your soldiers, service class, your blue collar and tradespeople. These people form families and take care of themselves, their things and their people. They (the proletariat) need a primary and secondary education that allows them basic social mobility and places them on the job ladder. This is the highest duty of OUSD. One OUSD used to do well.

    The college bound are fewer and for the most part can take care of themselves. The underclass are in the world in the way and you can’t do anything for them as long as they refuse to change what they are.

    The Catholic Schools distained the underclass and wouldn’t have them near their kids. But the Catholic Schools were made for the Proletariat. Thing is, when the Catholic Schools got through with their Proles they (largely) wound up in the Middle Class. It is only lately that the Catholic Schools have become a white flight refuge – if that’s going on in your town. My experience is that the Catholics were full of ethnic Polish, Irish, Hispanic, and every other Democratic Party Coalition member group who weren’t exactly welcome at Claremont Country Club.

    So back to OUSD and the other urban schools. Who are they here to serve and what are they doing (what value are they adding) for their customers? The colleges that pick up after high school, same question.

  • Nextset

    Doubleposted, sorry..

  • Caroline

    One point is that one demographic that has been outstandingly successful in upward mobility generation by generation is Eastern European Jewish immigrants.

    My husband’s grandfather was in the schmatte* trade, as were a huge number of Jewish immigrants — he emigrated from Poland to work in his brother’s dry goods store. His son, my late father-in-law, went to Stanford (undergrad and med school — he was admitted under the Jewish quota of the era) — and became a successful pathologist.

    There are legions of Jewish lawyers and doctors in his generation (born 1912) and the following generation whose parents were working-class strivers and whose kids far exceeded their parents’ social and income status.

    They did this without Catholic school, needless to say.

    *schmatte — Yiddish for “rag,” a wry reference to the garment business.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Nextset, this argument can’t go on anymore without deeper research, case studies, and statistics. We are both really slinging from our own experience, readings and observations — and rarely seemed to be communicating at all.

    I think the kids you are talking about — many of them Chinese now, but not only — still find their way through in parts of the huge, balkanized OUSD system.

    It always seems to me when you describe the parolees and low-level job applicants you deal with, you WERE talking about what I recognize as products of the underclass.

    However, you also need to remember that since the ’70s, more and more folks have been slipping below that line into the underclass — the stats on that are clear; the middle class in this country peaked in the 50s and 60s, the exact time period you are so high on.

  • Nextset

    Cranky: The Underclass are noted by their present orientation. It’s the defining thing about them. Because they are so present oriented they will not attend to their teeth, change the oil in their cars, tend to their children and dogs, manage basic sanitation, they will lie, cheat and steal from people they live with and who know them – and so on.

    The Proles are not as present orientated but still live in the short term. The middle class less so. As you go up the class ladder the players are busy acquiring real estate for their Grandchildren’s generation to use, laying out new cities and parks, setting up multi-family businesses, and developing skills such as medicine and the other professions that take decades to become proficient. There are researchers who maintain that IQ levels are tied to time orientation. The dumber you are the less you are able to discern future consequences.

    I’m not saying the underclass are evil although it can seem that way. They just don’t care about tomorrow (or even later today). This can’t be fixed by “education”. Pain is a better teacher and we have done all we can to make school painless. More realistic nations such as Malaysia and Singapore incorporate Pain into their management of the masses and don’t encourage the present oriented to maintain and reproduce that attitude.

    In the mid 1960s Politicians such as Teddy Kennedy repealed legislation which since the 1920s controlled immigration by ethnicity to prevent shifts in the US ethnic percentages. They threw open the floodgates to the 3rd world and the results are best shown by Los Angeles Unified. But immigration self-selects for intelligence. So we have the displacement of our more or less old lower class by new more competitive lower classes.

    Just for giggles we trash the Public Schools – eliminate discipline and competition – and see who comes out of them to compete with the upper classes now.

    Who knows, maybe the ruling classes resented all those (prole) WWII Vets using the GI Bill to get into the professions. (you know, the Irish lawyers, for example) If the 1950’s standards had continued without the ethnic replacement enacted by the Great Society legislation, imagine what this nation would look like now.

    Anyway, the public schools are no longer the engine of social mobility and very few people are complaining about it at all. The immigrants just got here and they obviously are going to rise. Guess who isn’t rising?

    Brave New World.

  • Nextset

    Caroline – German Jews average an IQ of 115 with a right side of their bell curve so great they take nearly all the Nobel Prizes for the lab sciences.

    Remember what I said about some people not needing help? They will be fine – the iceplant in the garden – unless something interferes with Darwinism.

    The Catholic Schools are the most important in promoting those who are middling. They push discipline, ambition and duty. Those qualities added to the lower middle class produce such things as the Irish takeover of the American Major Cities’ police/fire/civil service and administration in the mid 20th Century much to the displeasure of the WASPs. The Catholic Schooling had a lot to do with the national Irish rise to power from 1900 on.

    Too bad our urban public schools changed so much away from these operating principles following the Great Society programs in 1960. Black progress halted and the bastardy rate skyrocketed with the introduction of those programs.

  • Caroline

    I don’t agree with blaming the schools for those social dysfunctions. Schools cope with and reflect the community around them.

    And if we’re going to keep talking about Catholic schools, I’m sorry, but I can no longer resist discussing the issue of disabled children. The surrounding parochial schools routinely dumped disabled children into my kids’ public school classes. In the most extreme case, Power Parish St. Cecilia’s in San Francisco’s inner Sunset District dumped a girl with a terminal disability into kindergarten at my kids’ elementary alma mater — the child has since died.

    To me it conveys an image of Jesus calling the little children to him and barking, “Except you there, in the wheelchair — get out!” (Kicks wheelchair down front stairs of school.)

    I’ll refrain from adjectives, though my keyboarding fingers are itching; the thing speaks for itself.

    I know they’re all “oh, we don’t have the resources to meet disabled children’s needs,” even as they’re bashing the public schools that struggle to meet those children’s needs despite THEIR lack of resources(as we saw from the Catholic fan’s comments about public school teachers above on this thread, which started this discussion).

  • Nextset

    Caroline: Catholic Schools provided children discipline and deportment. This allowed them to rise in American Society. Public Schools don’t intend their charges to rise – they teach indiscipline and teach that deportment shouldn’t matter in taking a place in society. The resulting damage has a lot to do with the rate black children being feral at 18.

    I know that the educrats want to blame that on the Parent. As I have said earlier, the schools are expected and are able to overcome rotten parentage to the extent the kids can be trained for basic deportment. Our public schools carefully teach them they don’t have to/should fit in with society (unless they really want to – and then table manners, and middle class values are not taught. They should be taught where the child is of low class and not taught elsewhere.

  • Caroline

    I disagree and refute the falsehood that public schools “teach indiscipline and teach that deportment shouldn’t matter.”

    Since I have a 10th-grader who has attended urban public schools since K and a college freshman who attended urban public schools K-12, I claim the right to call out those with less or no experience with public schools. You have absolutely no firsthand knowledge, Nextset, and I have extensive firsthand experience.

    Catholic schools don’t have to accept the most troubled students, and they don’t. In San Francisco, the diocese was running schools in tough neighborhoods aimed specifically at African-American kids, and closed those schools down over the past 5 years because of the difficulty of dealing with the behavioral and academic challenges those children brought to school with them. My information comes directly from the former principal of one of those schools, who’s a friend.

    So the notion that Catholic schools are able to cope with the pathologies of the ghetto is false and firmly disproved by that fact.

    Again, Catholic schools SHOULD be morally obligated to accept the disabled children of families in their own parishes, however. Yet instead they abdicate that responsibility to the public schools, while proclaiming themselves superior and bashing the public schools.

  • Nextset

    Caroline: You assume.

    The Catholics once operated schools in the flats of Oakland, etc and worked with the lower class (NOT underclass) kids. Family and friends went to these schools in the 1950s – 1960s.

    This isn’t 1950. The Catholics were NEVER interested in underclass kids. They were dominant in the lower class that formed the Democratic Ethnic coalition that led up to the Great Society. My point earlier is that the Catholic Primary & Secondary education was important to the rise of that group to political and economic power in the first half of the 20th Century.

    Things have changed now. For one thing, the Government has been growing the underclass as fast as it can. Like feeding rats. It’s done very deliberately.

    The Catholics have no intention of getting involved with feral youth of the modern ghetto. These are left to the government that sired them.

    Your confusion is your own making. It’s orgin is your quaint notion that “Catholic schools SHOULD be morally obligated to accept” {Insert politically favored group here}.

    Well here’s how it works. NO ONE owes another person a crust of bread absent clan membership or voluntary association carrying obligation. This isn’t a totalitarian state yet.

    The Catholics will admit to their schools when it pleases them to do so. Bless them.

    It’s only the government that sets up “schools” with no standards.

    As far as my experience and education vs yours: I’m not impressed.

    Brave New World.

  • Caroline Grannan

    I’m not assuming anything about Catholic schools in Oakland. I’m just saying that the diocese in San Francisco DID try to run schools serving underclass kids in the African-American community — they did indeed have the intention of serving the youth of the modern ghetto, though “feral” is your word. They gave up because the challenges were too great. So the implication that Catholic schools can do this better than public schools is invalid.

    It’s certainly true that Catholic schools are under no legal obligation to admit disabled students, even those from families in their own parishes. Moral obligation is another question, but obviously, standards of morality differ.

  • Nextset

    I agree that standards differ. I think Ayn Rand is worth reading.

    Underclass by definition can’t be “educated”. Even training them is problematic. Their only salvation is not continuing to be underclass. Our urban public schools very overtly tell everybody they have a “right” to be what they are born to and it’s wrong to change that. Relative morality I think.. You see this when the school refuses to reach black children standard english. Or any other absolutes on behavior and morality. If they are not teaching religion in school they’d better teach the Penal Code.

    At least the Catholic made darn sure everybody knew the 10 commendments in 1st grade.

  • Dr. Neeley, Sociologist

    To Nextset,

    The question of school performance is not an issue of Catholic vs public schooling. The variable of money is not an acceptable standard upon which to measure a person’s worth.

    The study of academic disciplines originated in prehistory, on the continent of Africa, during Africa’s dynastic monarchy period. Tied to the ethical philosophy of MAAT (preservation of the social order through the pursuit of harmony, justice and mutual responsibility), kings ruled with absolute authority. Corruption and self-interest have infiltrated the sphere of educational policy-making and implementgation. Corruption and self-interest are destroying the normal functions and outcomes of public school education. Thus, socioeconomic affluence prospers at the expense of the inner-city (Weber, Max.
    THE CITY, 1958).

    Despite their backgrounds, American students deserve to: be accepted, be acknowledged, be regarded holistically, have compassionate and competent teachersw, experience fair play, feel worthy, and be told the TRUTH about hmanity’s origins including the influential role of African socio-cultural history (Karenga, Maulana Ron. THE HUSIA, 3 and Neeley, Beverly. THE ETHIOPIAN GRAIL: ESSAYS ON THE ORIGIN OF CULTURAL EXCELLENCE, forthcoming very soon).

  • Nextset

    Dr. Neely: Africa is not exactly the cradle of civilization. And that’s putting it mildly. Nothing of Arfician culture is of any use to us in education (or anywhere else). And I have African relatives. They didn’t come here to get taught about Mother Africa.

    This civilization is about Western Culture. Those proficient in that go up, those who are not, fail.

    Western culture has plenty of experience using public schools to transmit values to the proletariat and the middle class. The object of public education is to produce people ready for industry, the military and higher education – Not prison and welfare.

    Isn’t Ron Karenga the creator of Kwanza – a nutty fantasy ceremony – and a ex-con from state prison with a sex/torture prior? Or do I have the wrong person here??

    OUSD and the other urban schools in CA are simply doing a worse job now than in 1960. The reason for this is they have abandoned much of what worked in favor of what doesn’t work.

  • Nextset

    Yes, I thought I recognized that name. Karenga is really Ronald McKinley Everett, a nutty sex criminal. Here’s his Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Karenga

    It’s been my experience that when adult men change their name it is a serious red flag for a personality disorder.

    If you are attracted to his ramblings, what does that say about you?