Saturday, May 16, 2015

Good News

High school graduations rates nationwide are increasing, according to a report discussed in The Atlantic, and New Mexico is is one of the states leading the trend.

The report itself, compiled by a non-profit called GradNation, lists New Mexico as one of six states that collectively educate more than 70 percent of the nation's Latinos. "Students of color are making the biggest gains, with Latinos, the fastest-growing student population, in the forefront of that trend," writes Alia Wong, associate editor at The Atlantic.

"The percentage of high-schoolers in the U.S. who are getting their diplomas has reached record levels, and the student populations that have traditionally lagged behind—particularly poor children of color—account for much of that progress," Wong writes.

A map with the article shows New Mexico at the top -- one of the few states that has increased its graduation rate more than 4 percentage points since 2011.

New Mexico's graduation rate increased 4+ percentage points 2011-2013 - chart by GradNation

Our national graduation rate is at 81.4 percent, according to the GradNation web site, and reading their actual report reveals a picture that's a bit complex, with poorer states like New Mexico having trouble in some sub categories of students, particularly poor students. And a quick search of the web for graduation rates in Albuquerque reveals that some of its public schools graduate students at rates well below state and national averages. See APS graduation rates. Highland High and Rio Grande High are at around 50 percent.

But this study has to be seen as good news. As recently as 2001, graduation rates were at least 10 percentage points lower, nationwide, on average, and much lower among Latinos; in some states in the 30 percent range.

Note: GradNation is a project of an organization called America's Promise. A quick look through their sponsors list reveals some of the usual suspects pushing charter schools, a backdoor privatization scheme, at the expense of public education, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but to be fair, America's Promise also has among its sponsors groups like the American Federation of Teachers, which certainly opposes charter schools.

Looking around the internet and digging into the web sites maintined by America's Promise reveals a mixture of ways they try to increase graduation rates. It's funded by corporations and NGOS, who provide grants, that would be of course based on their philosophies, that are aimed at things like increasing literacy, getting kids interested in sports and building up school libraries, to name a few of the many. They also get corporations to sponsor community forums at which a few to a few hundred students are exposed to corporate types who try to get them focused on graduating by showing them the connection between a good job and an education.

Which is all well and good, as far as it goes. I can see a lot of benefit coming from some of the grants, and I can see a kid talking to someone who works in Big Data getting enthused and going on to graduate.

But I don't see anything that addresses the root causes of low graduation rates and alienation among young people, i.e. poverty and the attack on public education that's been going on for years under the greater umbrella of Reaganomics and the privatization of the public sector.

Not that higher graduation rates are a bad thing. A diploma is something. It's something that can never be taken away. At the least, to someone who is hiring and who has a diploma, it means something. It means the applicant has what it takes to get a diploma, and did what it takes to get a diploma.

But a couple things must be kept in mind. One, is the importance of public education, which provides several important benefits to a society. It's something a community accomplishes together. It goes a long way toward leveling out educational opportunity. It keeps the best and brightest, after they graduate and go on to their carers, engaged in their community and its educational system and, especially if their kids attend public schools, too, makes sure they still have a stake in the school system and will more likely support it with their time and their willingness to pay the taxes that fund it.

Two, the surest, most equitable and most humane way to improve education is to improve the economic lot of poor people, by having a more equitable and humane economic system. Parents who aren't working two and three jobs, or who don't have to rely on public assistance, are more engaged in their children's lives and education, and don't have and won't pass on to their children the negative effects poverty has on a person's soul and personality, to be blunt about it. We must never forget and never blame the less fortunate. They are part of our country, and part of us.


  1. Education of people is the key to prosperity. Individual prosperity, community prosperity and national prosperity. Just look at the world today. Look at the world yesterday.

    The question then becomes, do we educate a few to a larger degree or the most to a somewhat lesser degree. Personally I believe that educating as many as possible to the highest degree possible is the best road to follow. Even if the level of education is not as high as it would be otherwise.

    Ignorance and illiteracy is very expensive for all involved, way more so than the cost of educating the population.

    The public educational system is the key to the education of the masses. We must insist on it, we must insist on the best we can buy with the tax money we use to pay for it.

    New Mexicans have a particular stake in this and we must be vigilant to insure a vibrant PUBLIC educational system. Some of my ancestors in New Mexico were kept in ignorance and illiteracy by other ancestors or by circumstances. Either way, we need to understand that education, to whatever degree, is the answer. Everything else is secondary.

    1. Great comment! The cost of ignorance and illiteracy. Indeed. That comment should be the state creed Thanks, NM.