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Gary Rubinstein’s Blog: Arne Debunkin’

A little over three years ago, I first encountered Arne Duncan when he spoke at the TFA 20 year alumni summit and described the miracle school Urban Prep.  He implied that this school had a 100% graduation rate and a 100% college acceptance rate, which inspired me to investigate this clam leading to my very first school debunking.  My research became a part of the ‘game changing’ (as Duncan likes to say) NY Times Op-Ed by Diane Ravitch, Waiting for a School Miracle.

Since that Op-Ed, politicians, including Duncan, have been a bit more careful with their miracle school claims.  I suppose that Duncan felt it was safe to go back into the water when I saw him tweet, the other day:


I followed the link to the ed week blog, which began with the paragraph:  “A high school graduation rate of 100 percent is quite a feat. At Stapleton High School in Denver, not only will all seniors earn a diploma this spring—each one has been admitted to a four-year college or university, according to a press release issued last week. And it’s not a fluke. This has been the case every year since 2008, for the school, where 40 percent of the racially and ethnically diverse student population comes from low-income families.”

So, let’s see, the opening sentence “A high school graduation rate of 100 percent is quite a feat.”  Actually it depends on what they mean by a 100 percent graduation rate.  If they mean a 100 percent ‘cohort’ rate, meaning that all the students who began as 9th graders three years earlier, eventually graduated, then yes, that would be something.  But if they just mean that all the seniors graduated, then that isn’t so much of a feat.  Also, notice that this school is far from qualifying as a 90-90-90 school since the school, according to the article Duncan cites, has just 40 percent of the school come from low-income families.

Colorado is one of the better states for having a lot of school data publicly available.  So I looked into the enrollments for the past four years at this school.  Within a few minutes I learned that this school there were 144 9th graders in 2011, 129 10th graders in 2012, 98 11th graders in 2013, and now 89 12th graders in 2014.  So their cohort graduation rate is more like 62%.

Doing these school debunkings is definitely an annoying task, but I’m glad that Duncan was able to come up with a miracle school this time that was so easy to do.

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Gary Rubinstein

Gary Rubinstein is a high school math teacher. He is the recipient of the 2005 Math for America Master Teacher Fellowship. ...