Inaccurate Study Does No Good

Members of the public are right to insist on excellence in public schools. They are right to insist that the challenges of education, including high dropout rates at some schools, be addressed.

But unfairly criticizing educators who are trying to do a good job isn’t productive. It does a disservice to those who have found ways to address the challenges.

Apparently, just that happened this week. Educators at Monroe Central High School in the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District were accused in a major study of running a “dropout factory.”

That is not the case.

A national study, conducted by Johns Hopkins University, delved into the problem of schools with high dropout rates. The study identified high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia where no more than 60 percent of the students who enter as freshmen graduate.

Monroe Central was on the list — wrongly, according to educators there. They point out that state statistics have shown that the school has had a graduation rate ranging from 83 to 92 percent for several years. That’s a far cry from 60 percent.

Monroe Central officials think the Johns Hopkins researchers may have erred in not taking into account students who enter the school as freshmen, then become involved in vocational programs — but still graduate.

Perhaps so — but scholarly research is supposed to be just that: meticulous and scientific. Not looking into all the possibilities doesn’t strike us as scholarly.

Were Monroe Central one of the “dropout factories” so rightly criticized in the study, parents in the Switzerland of Ohio School District would have been up in arms years ago. They simply would not have tolerated a school where nearly half of those entering did not graduate.

Johns Hopkins owes Monroe Central another look — and, quite likely, an apology. But more than simply offending educators and students at one school is involved in the situation. How many other schools were criticized improperly by the study? And if a substantial number of mistakes were made, why should anyone trust the study’s conclusions in general?

The challenges facing educators are serious. It is important that they be faced. But the equivalent in the political world of slinging mud does not advance the cause of school reform.