HuffPost & LA Times Win Grad Rate Announcement Coverage

It’s nearly always interesting to see which outlets cover an announcement like the Monday’s USDE release about state grad rate increases for 2014 — and how they cover it (if they do):

The Washington Post coverage (High school graduation rates are on the rise in most states) by Emma Brown is pretty straightforward, noting that grad rates “ticked up in a majority of states in 2014, and graduation gaps between white and minority students narrowed in most states that year, according to new federal data,” and making connections to ESEA reauthorization and providing a two-color PDF table showing the few states with decreasing grad rates.

The story by the WSJ’s Ben Kesling(U.S. High-School Graduation Rates Continue Improvement) features a recent picture of Duncan and not a ton more than that. Kesling is filling in for recently-departed national education reporter Caroline Porter, who has yet to be replaced (and may not be anytime soon).Then again, EdWeek doesn’t even bother, going with an AP story (Most states show increase in high school graduation rates). Ditto for the NYT.

HuffPost’s Rebecca Klein goes with the grad rate gaps angle (Graduation Rate Gap Between Black And White Students Is Closing In Most States), and some bar graphs and maps. It also notes that all the news is not good: “The graduation rate gap between economically disadvantaged students and all other students stayed the same or increased in more states than it decreased in the 2013-2014 year.”

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Klein’s former colleague Joy Resmovits, now at the LA Times, focuses on the differences between state grad rates (Why Iowa’s graduation rate is so much higher than California’s). Resmovits and fellow reporter Sonali Kohli try and tease out demographic,staffing, and funding angles on the various grad rates, and talk to a few experts like UCLA’s John Rogers and Tyrone Howard and quoting from a release from state supe Tom Torlakson. There are also a few graphs — enough to win the day for the LA Times. 

What nobody seems to do (or has time to attempt) is to “look behind the numbers,” as Achieve’s Chad Colby recommends, pointing readers to a useful backgrounder. Another interesting read is EdWeek’s writeup: H.S. Diploma Often Not an Indicator of College and Career Readiness, Report Says.

A third possible angle to explore would be the reliability of the grad rates provided by states to the USDE. In Chicago and a few other places, rises in graduation rates have turned out to be partly a function of improved programs but also fueled with bookkeeping games and low-quality credit recovery approaches. 

Related posts: NPR’s “Grad Rates” Shows Us How Well Education Journalism Can Be Done:

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.