Massaging the numbers

Published 11:49 pm Saturday, November 13, 2010

There are 10 former students of Suffolk Public Schools whom the administration would like to track down. Those 10 students have been described as being “in limbo” following an extensive investigation into the status of students who were thought to have dropped out of school before graduating. Despite efforts that included tracking students down via their parents’ Facebook accounts, Suffolk’s public school administration has been unable to find those missing 10 students and learn their ultimate status.

Some were found, however, and the effort to do so has resulted in an improvement of just under 1 percent in the system’s dropout statistics. The city’s School Board learned last week that instead of the dropout rate of nearly 13 percent that originally had been reported to the state, Suffolk’s dropout rate following the investigation was adjusted to 12.07 percent.

Some students had moved with their military parents and graduated from schools in other states — or other countries — and some had gone on to earn their GEDs or other certificates of completion. Each of those students who ultimately completed his or her education was then subtracted from the total number of dropouts, improving the city’s dropout rate ever so slightly.

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An improvement of less than 1 percent clearly is not deserving of celebratory parades, and considering that nearly one in five Suffolk students still does not complete high school within four years, it could be argued that such a paltry improvement in the dropout rate is hardly worth a mention.

Yet Suffolk’s public school educators seem intent on counting the trees standing within the decaying forest, nonetheless.

It’s certainly good news for the students that they finished school somewhere or even earned their GEDs. Employment prospects will improve for them, their self-worth will rise and their life prospects will be far better for their accomplishments. Concerning the school system, however, it would be far more satisfying for Suffolk taxpayers and parents to see such Herculean efforts as have been expended in researching the correct classifications of a few “misplaced” students instead directed toward intervening on behalf of the many who are truly lost right here in Suffolk.

A 13-percent dropout rate should be unacceptable. But a rate of 12.07 percent is hardly better.