Grievance Mongers II

This chart, prepared by reader/blogger Jim Patrick, breaks down high school graduation rates in Virginia by demographic category, making several points more forcefully than I managed to do in my recent post, “Grievance Mongers Strike Again.”

The good news: Virginia seems to be doing something right — H.S. graduation rates are higher across the board in Virginia than they are nationally. (Hopefully, the difference reflects reality, not just different definitions of “drop out” or different methodologies for calculating the rate.)

Especially encouraging is the fact that blacks in Virginia are graduating at a significantly higher rate than elsewhere in the country. Much work remains to be done, of course. The key is figuring out what needs to be done. Is throwing more money at schools the answer? I’m skeptical.

The bad news: Take note of the disparity in graduation rates between males and females, which exists among both blacks and whites. It is tempting to accuse Virginia’s school systems of bias and discrimination, of favoring girls over boys. Such a ploy would turn the Conventional Wisdom of the grievance lobbies and the Mainstream Media — the notion that American institutions systematically discriminate against girls and women — on its head. It’s tempting, but I won’t take the cheap shot.

The numbers do, in fact, reveal a problem, although it’s not clear whether the problem resides in the schools or in the way we raise little boys. Perhaps it’s both. One possible explanation has gotten insufficient attention: The epidemic of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder among boys. The problem barely existed 50 years ago, which suggests that the epidemic is a cultural phenomenon. But that’s a topic for another post.

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7 responses to “Grievance Mongers II”

  1. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Well done Jim Patrick. A picture is worth a thousand words.

    Need a picture for men marrying women before they get the girl pregnant.

    Need a picture for men and women staying married unless one commits adultery, abandonment, is abusive or becomes an addict (including alcohol)- AAAA.

    Changes in behavior to make those pictures illustrate more of the population will change the numbers.

    Changing schools, applying some freedom of choice in alternatives, to fit more males instead of trying to pound square males into round school holes, will change the numbers.

    Culture commands.

    (96 words inclusively)

  2. Of course, the numbers are all wrong. But, they are wrong nationally so at least the comparisons are valid.

    Number of grads/Divided by number of 9th Graders four years previous does not measure any kind of effectiveness of high schools. It only measures relative size of the the groups.

    Two years from now we will perhaps be able to have a reasonable discussion about not only what the numbers actually are, but what happens to those students who are not reported as graduates….they could have graduated at another high school.

  3. We need to look closely at both the contributing factors to the gender disparity (I do think that the evidence suggests that the rote memory, fact based no recess/art/sports model of traditional/conservative school advocates is particularly hard on boys, but heaven forbid that we blame Bill Bennet and other “conservative” education advocates for pushing a learning model that particularly disadvantages boys)AND the obvious racial disparities in success/graduation rates among boys that accounts for more of the disparity between boys and girls that many commentators on this issue acknowledge.

    There is a more complex picture here that doesn’t lend itself easily to the bipolar, largely partisan analysis of this issue that seems to be the norm.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    I’ve always thought that attention deficit disorder was a myth. There is no sign — oh, wow, did you see what that guy just did on TV? — where was I (Hey, turn down that iPod will ‘ya?) Anyway, my point is (wait, I have to respond to this email).

  5. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    CG2: Race may be a distinction in the statistics, but not a cause of the disparity.

    The reason why more Black kids fail may be because more Black kids don’t have 2 parent (Mother and Father) families.

    Descriptive analysis and causal analysis are different. Descriptive is interesting and, sometimes, suggestive. Causal is difficult to establish, but profound when its right.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Does this reflect both public and private high schools? I can’t tell.

    If it only shows public HS’s, I’d not be surprised to see boys over-represented in private HS’s, partly as a response of parents to the ADD biz. If son Bill isn’t doing too well in public school (for whatever reason – I’m not a great believer in wide-spread ADD), parents who have the means to do so are likely to go private, especially if daughter Sarah is doing just fine in pubic school and so isn’t likely to require private school.

    Deena Flinchum

  7. Jim Patrick Avatar
    Jim Patrick

    CG2 – Yes, we need to look at both male and black under-graduation rates. As the graph shows, Virginia is proportionately doing the same as the nation on the gender gap, but we do much better at closing the enormous race gap. The trick is to find what’s different in VA-vs-US methods and amplify that difference.

    JAB – Certainly parents (plural, as in both of them present) make a huge difference in lowering delinquancy rates, but like CG2’s assigning cause without proof, there’s no link between graduation and parenting. It seems logical, but there’s no evidence… yet.

    … there is a sort of free market for theories about why boys are underperforming girls in school, with parents, educators, media, and the public choosing to give credence to the explanations that are the best marketed and that most appeal to their pre-existing preferences.WaPost

    Though there’s no single factor, some contributions to dropping out are obvious; like the more classes failed the more likely a dropout.

    Of course attendance is important. Butcher’s article in Bacon’s Rebellion correlates absences and SOL scores, but there’s a clearer correlation to missing a lot of school and deciding to miss graduation altogether.

    Others reasons aren’t so intuitive. The single most accurate predictor of dropout is grade-school retention; repeating a grade in elementary school drops the probability of high school graduation forty percent !

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