|The Mission of the Manhattan Institute is
foster greater economic choice and
Cleveland at bottom in rates of graduates
By Will Dunham
Cleveland's troubled school system had the nation's worst percentage of public high school graduates, while two districts in the suburbs of Washington top the list, according to a study released yesterday.
The study, which ranked the performance of all 50 states and the 50 biggest individual school districts, examined the public high school graduating class of 1998. Nationally, 74 percent of students who entered ninth grade with that class earned a diploma, including 78 percent of white students, 56 percent of blacks, and 54 percent of Latinos.
With 82 percent graduating, Boston schools did well, placing fourth overall out of the 50 biggest districts and second only to Albuquerque among urban areas.
Using statistics from the Department of Education and state and local governments, the comprehensive study conducted by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a think tank, revealed startling contrasts by region and race.
In Cleveland, just 28 percent of the class of 1998 earned a diploma. Only 23 percent of white students graduated - far lower than any other district studied - while 26 percent of Latinos and 29 percent of blacks graduated.
Cleveland was one of five districts among the 50 largest in America that had an overall graduation rate below 50 percent, joined by Memphis (42 percent), Milwaukee (43 percent), Columbus, Ohio, (45 percent), and Chicago (47 percent).
''The stinkers were obvious,'' Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute, the study's lead researcher, told Reuters. ''Milwaukee and Cleveland - you could have guessed that they were going to be at the bottom, and they were.''
Voucher programs have been created in both cities, allowing students in failing public schools to use taxpayer money to help pay for tuition at private or religious schools. Greene said the voucher programs had no effect on the public school graduation statistics cited in the study.
Six of the 50 largest districts generated graduation rates at or above 80 percent. Two districts in affluent suburbs of Washington led the way, with Virginia's Fairfax County at 87 percent and Montgomery County, Md., at 85 percent, followed by Albuquerque, N.M. (83 percent); Boston; Jordan, Utah (80 percent); and Virginia Beach (80 percent).
Philadelphia, whose public schools are slated to be taken over by the state of Pennsylvania with the district's top jobs privatized, ranked in the middle, Greene said, with a 70 percent graduation rate. A strong 91 percent of whites in Philadelphia's class of 1998 earned a diploma, compared with 65 percent of blacks and 53 percent of Latinos.
Looking at statewide numbers, Iowa led the way with 93 percent of its public high school students graduating in 1998, followed by Wisconsin and North Dakota (both 87 percent), and Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Vermont (all 85 percent). Minnesota, Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Montana also were at 80 percent or better.
©2001 Boston Globe
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