ERIC Number: EJ703946
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004-Jun-1
Reference Count: 4
Stateline: Making Truth Less Subjective
Phi Delta Kappan, v85 n10 p725 Jun 2004
Having data available is so important because it can improve upon our personal perceptions. Admittedly, statistics can sometimes be skewed to tell whatever story their handlers want them to tell, but by and large, high-quality data allow us to step back from personal perceptions and embark on an analysis with an eye toward identifying the root cause of a problem, the worthlessness of one current solution, or the value of another. Take the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) in North Carolina, for example. Quality Matters 2004: A Wake Community Review of the Public's Schools is the latest edition of an annual review of WCPSS that seeks to inform the community by providing an independent analysis of the finances and operations of the system. (This publication is a separate entity from the mandated "report card" produced by the district.) Business, civic, and community leaders have joined together as the School Finance Committee to evaluate the school system, its stewardship of taxpayer money, and the return on citizen investment it provides. The committee spent more than nine months analyzing the spending and performance of the school system. Members were interested in economic impact, noting that a community's economic growth can be measured by identifying lost opportunities and recognizing positive achievement. So they looked at the impact of high school dropouts on Wake County's economy. Referencing the estimate that over a lifetime a high school graduate will earn $280,000 more than a high school dropout, they determined that the economic cost of dropouts in Wake County is staggering, and it repeats itself every year. By this measure, claims the report, the 791 ninth- through 12th-grade students in Wake County who dropped out of high school in 2002-03 surrendered approximately $221.5 million in lifetime earning potential. The committee also looked at how many and which teachers leave the district, finding it especially alarming that many teachers who leave are tenured. Having this data in hand, the committee asked about specific methods Wake County has employed to recruit and retain teachers. The reporting and analysis component uses data to diagnose problems in curriculum or instruction and thus to make midcourse corrections to help raise student achievement. The state will also be able to use this system to comply with all of the reporting requirements of No Child Left Behind.
Descriptors: School Statistics, Public Schools, Educational Research, Data Analysis, Educational Indicators, Dropouts, Advanced Placement Programs, Teacher Persistence, Information Systems, Student Records
Phi Delta Kappa International, Inc., 408 N. Union St., P.O. Box 789, Bloomington, IN 47402-0789. Web site: http://www.pdkintl.org.
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: High Schools
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Idaho; North Carolina