Why Iowa’s Graduation Rate Is So Much Higher Than California’s

Source: Why Iowa’s graduation rate is so much higher than California’s

For the second time in as many days the LA Times has distinguished itself yet again, for some values of distinction, with this piece from the Ministry of Truth. Since it represents the confluence of the problem with the media with that of California’s train wreck in education, I could not resist.

The piece begins on a self-congratulatory note, stating that California’s high school graduation rate has improved in the last five years. Of course, the authors neglect to note that Jerry Brown recently abrogated the high school exam retroactively to 2006, so that as a consequence effectively all one needed to graduate from a California high school was an opposable thumb and a commitment to looking both ways before crossing streets. But, yay us.

The piece continues with the operative part, viz., we need to spend more money on education. In 1988 California passed Prop. 98, which mandates that 39+% of the entire state budget must be spent on K-12 education. (Thanks, teachers’ unions, which placed this initiative on the ballot, in a rare instance of them evincing any initiative whatever.) Since California’s state budget is around $100 billion per annum, this amounts to a hefty sum, but alas, not enough to hear the liberals tell it.

Hence this piece, which laments that Iowa and 30 other states boast (if that’s the right word) higher graduation rates than California (it’s not clear whether it’s the opposable thumb or the traffic safety hurdle that’s responsible for this dismal showing). But the solution is to hand: more money!

The top 10-15 states on the list, said John Rogers, education professor and director of UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access, spend the most on education — so it would make sense that more of their students graduate. “They tend to be states with low levels of poverty and lower levels of English learners,” Rogers said.

(Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access? You thought I was kidding about the Ministry of Truth, didn’t you? Remember, this is California.)

The article does note that Iowa spends only $1100 more per pupil than California, and that Texas also has a lot of English learners, but has a higher graduation rate than California (Texas also spends $1000 less per pupil, which the journalists forgot to mention) before reciting the shopworn mantra of class sizes, individualized instruction, and numbers of counselors per student before flogging the English learners horse some more.

Several bar charts compare graduation rates with per pupil spending, but our intrepid journalists, featuring minds unsullied by curiosity (California high school graduates, most likely) go to the bottom line – more money – without ever considering whether the data to hand support their contentions.

So let’s do the journalists’ work for them, shall we? From the data they cite it turns out that the correlation coefficient R between graduation rate and spending per pupil is … -0.02. That for graduation rate and percentage of non-Hispanic whites (taken from Wikipedia) is 0.58.

graduation rates

So the data unequivocally show that graduation results do not correlate with per pupil expenditure (even allowing for differing cost structures: New York spends twice as much as California, and has worse results), casting a lot of doubt on whether more money is the answer.

Awkward things, facts.

The second plot omits Hawaii, because its demographics (23% white, 38.6% Asian, 10% Hawaiian, 23.6% mixed race)  are so incommensurate with the rest of the country as to render comparison meaningless.



7 comments to “Why Iowa’s Graduation Rate Is So Much Higher Than California’s”
  1. Clearly, the requirements a student must meet to graduate are Too Damn High. If the standards were adjusted to reflect throwing gang signs, tagging, dope-smoking and crime, the CA graduation rate would zoom sky-high!

    Perhaps the states can help their kids onward in life by giving each one better iPods, iPads, iPhones and laptops. Yeah, that’s it. Those base models they hand out to the “students” just don’t cut it.

  2. Yep. Give ’em high-end iPads, and watch those Nobel Prizes roll in. That’s the only thing keeping the ghettos and barrios from being innovation powerhouses.

  3. (I graduated from HS in rural Iowa; the kid who sat next to me at the ceremony couldn’t read the diploma–same diploma I got. But he showed up enough days to be eligible to play sports, and that’s what really matters…)

    Anyway, tangent over, has anyone made a graph of state HS graduation rates vs. avg amount of welfare available to a 20-year-old dropout with two illegitimate kids? Off-hand, I know in NYC you can pull down thousands more in yearly “benefits”[sic] by following that path than you can earn by going to work with just an HS diploma; I suspect CA is similar but TX is not. Would be nice to get real data, though.

  4. There are so many problems in public education that it would be difficult to list them all.

    But….the arrogance of the left; that children can be taught all things, is a huge part of the problem.

    Reading, writing, math, basic science, history, civics and physical education. That’s it.

    These are not complex subjects. Teaching someone the alphabet and multiplication tables does not require technology or, for that matter, intelligent teachers, just well-trained ones.

    The educations our grandparents got in this country was far better than anything available today, and the last time I checked, grandpa didn’t use a laptop in high school.

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