November 29, 2012: The Harvard Institute of Politics, the University of Pennsylvania's Fels Institute of Government, and the American Education Foundation have released a report, "The States Project," a nonpartisan overview of "the state of the states." And the news isn't good: as the teaser on the website reads: subtitle reads, "Our states are in trouble."
California, in particular. We rank 33rd overall (Virginia is first and Mississippi is last).
When the figures are broken down in to categories, the picture is even grimmer. We're 35th in "health and wellness" (Hawaii is first and Texas is last). Economic opportunity? We're 30th (Massachusetts is first; South Carolina is last). Education? We're 34th (Massachusetts is first; Mississippi is last).
The median household income in the U.S. is $50,054; California's is $53, 367. The state with the highest median household income is Maryland, followed closely by Virginia. Proximity to Washington, D.C. seems to have its advantages.
Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee columnist writing in today's Capitol Alert, also illuminated another report issued today from the U.S. Department of Education:
...[the report compares] the states on high school graduation rates and California...[ranks] 32nd with a 76 percent graduation rate, similar to that of most Southern states....
The new federal report - the first to use a uniform measurement system for all states - also confirms what California education officials already knew, that graduation rates vary widely among ethnic groups. For students of Asian or Pacific Islander ethnicity, it's 89 percent, followed by whites at 85 percent, Latinos at 70 percent and black students at 63 percent.
Recent state graduation rate reports have used similar numbers. There are also wide variances among school districts, with some, such as giant Los Angeles Unified, struggling to top 50 percent. That reflects their large populations of non-white and "limited English proficiency" students, the latter having just a 51 percent graduation rate....
The new formula for calculating graduation rates is straightforward: States report the percentage of first-time ninth graders who earn a diploma within four years. Students who receive adjusted diplomas (typically an option for students with disabilities) or GEDs are not counted. The new graduation rate formula is the result of a nationwide initiative that dates back to 2005, when the governors of all 50 states signed a compactagreeing to adopt the new formula by this year. (The District of Columbia also agreed to participate.)
With the release of the 2010-11 data, the baseline for each state's graduation rate has been reset. It's important to remember that the newly reported graduation rates are not directly comparable to those previously calculated by states using alternate metrics. Under the new formula, slightly more than half of the states saw their graduation rates decline, while the remaining states either saw an increase or stayed the same, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
So why does this matter? The formulas previously used by some states were considered highly inaccurate: Dropouts were often widely under-reported, while graduation rates were inflated. The new formula is a move toward more accountability, as well as consistency. Additionally, the wide disparity in states' formulas for calculating graduation rates made it difficult for researchers and policymakers to compare outcomes. That's a necessary element for identifying and addressing the underlying issues contributing to nearly 30 percent of the nation's ninth graders failing to earn a diploma in four years.