“… the primary requirement of an economist is that he be able to recognize fallacies and refute them critically.” — Ludwig von Mises, Notes and Recollections, p. 108.
Also, join the Bluegrass Institute tonight at Vincenzo’s, 150 S. Fifth Street in the heart of Louisville, for a dinner kicking off the 1792-Never out of date membership campaign. Pick up your tickets at the door or by going to www.kentucky1792.com.
Over at the Prichard Committee’s blog, Susan Weston just posted data she worked up for her recent presentation to the Louisville Forum about the condition of Jefferson County’s public schools.
Weston claimed that while Jefferson County’s elementary and middle school students notably lag behind their counterparts in the vast majority of other Kentucky school districts, the “high schools look much healthier.”
Well, that diagnosis may be an uncomfortable forerunner of what is about to happen to real health care in this country. It’s way off. Louisville needs a second opinion.
To begin, Weston looked at test results for the overall student average scores and separately for low-income student scores and for African-American student scores.
Ms. Weston claims that in both reading and math, Louisville’s fourth and seventh grade students lagged behind somewhere between 76 percent to 92 percent of the other school districts in Kentucky depending upon the subject, grade level and student group considered.
That is a pretty low performance level.
In very sharp contrast, she claimed that for 10th grade reading and 11th grade math, only somewhere between 17 percent and 42 percent of the other districts performed better than Jefferson County.
That is a huge difference – making Jefferson County High Schools look like miracle workers.
Can this really be?
Weston forgot a good rule with statistics. If things look too good to be true, better check for some hidden explanation.
In this case, it really isn’t hard to understand what is happening.
Very simply, Jefferson County drops out a much higher proportion of its kids than other districts do before those kids ever get to take high school tests. It’s no wonder that the remainder in Jefferson County’s high schools looks like they are doing better – proportionately there are a lot fewer kids left to test than in other districts. And, as dropouts, overall those Jefferson County kids would certainly drag down the averages had they stayed in school long enough to test.
The truth is that while other districts are working hard to keep kids in school, even if they will score low on state tests, Jefferson County has some of the lowest graduation rates in the state in the new 2011 graduation rate report that was released last week by the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). This table summarizes some of the grim reality in those new graduation rate statistics.
In fact, while the overall statewide graduation rate went UP in the new KDE report from 76.7 percent in 2010 to 78.0 percent in 2011, Jefferson County’s overall high school graduation rate for all students dropped from 69.3 percent in 2010 to the 67.8 percent figure you see in the table above.
Yup – FALLING graduation rates! That’s the stuff that makes for a “healthy” school system – NOT! But, it can inflate high school test scores.
The announcement about the slight rise in high school graduation rates in Kentucky is generally good news. However, a thoughtful editorial in the State Journal (Frankfort), “Dropouts and more” (subscription?), raises an important issue – we don’t want diploma awards to increase solely because districts are operating diploma mills.
The Journal editorial notes such concerns were raised in Franklin County Schools a few years ago when the local board of education voted to allow students in the alternative high school to graduate with only 22 credit hours (absolute state minimum) while students attending the regular high schools in the district needed at least 26 credits to earn a diploma.
With Kentucky’s new school accountability program putting on the pressure to produce better graduation rates, there certainly will be temptation for some school systems to try and cut corners.
Also, the operation of alternative programs in the state is very much unexplored territory. Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday has commented on the need to get more information about the performance of these programs.
Currently, there are no reports available to the public for test scores, graduation rates and other performance indicators for alternative schools. That leaves the door open for problems.
At present, in any event, it seems like the folks running alternative programs are doing exactly what we want: helping kids who need special assistance to get back on track and earn a meaningful high school diploma. I hope nothing comes along to convince me that isn’t the case.
Reed the keynote speaker at Monday’s dinner kicking off the institute’s 2012 membership campaign
Mandy Connell, host of the popular Mandy Connell Show on Louisville’s 84WHAS, will interview Larry Reed, president of the Foundation for Economic Education, at 9:35 a.m. tomorrow (Friday). Listen live here.
Reed will be the keynote speaker at the Bluegrass Institute’s membership campaign kick-off dinner on Monday at 6 p.m. at Vincenzo’s 150 South Fifth St., in downtown Louisville. The event is part of the institute’s 1792-Never out of date membership campaign, celebrating Kentucky’s 220th year as a commonwealth.
Mandy Connell, whose show can be heard from 9 a.m. to Noon weekdays, will be the special guest at Monday’s event. Tune in to Mandy’s show for the Bluegrass Mondays with the Bluegrass Institute every other Monday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Purchase tickets here.
“Larry Reed is one of the great champions of liberty, free markets and free people,” Connell said. “He is a frequent guest on my show because of his tremendous ability to take complex economic issues and articulate them in a way that inform and engage listeners. I highly recommend him to all my friends and listeners.”
Reed also is founder and president emeritus of the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
According to CBS:
John Schnatter, CEO and founder of Papa John’s, said pizza will cost up to 14 cents more when the Affordable Care Act goes into effect in 2014.
Of course this isn’t REALLY about pizza prices. This is about businesses preparing themselves for the unknown impact that Obamacare will have on their ability to operate. There is no question that businesses will pass on their increased Obamacare-overhead to customers.
Schnatter later added: “If Obamacare is in fact not repealed, we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders best interests.”
The questions is: How many business owners will have a similar attitude and aggressively follow suit? Will that set off a chain reaction with consumer spending and the nation’s economy?