Harvard prof chimes in

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July 27, 1999

Congratulations for your excellent reports on the dropout rates in Chicago. Back in the early 1980s, when I was teaching at the University of Chicago we did a report asserting that the city’s dropout rate was more than six times the number the school district was reporting. A careful study came out close to our number. I find that school districts always slip into very misleading dropout reporting and so do state departments of education unless they are regularly challenged.

One of the dirty secrets of the high-stakes testing movement, according to a 1999 report from the National Academy of Sciences, is that it is driving up already high dropout rates. You are doing exactly what skilled journalists should be doing and performing a substantial service for Chicago and a very vulnerable group of students. Don’t let the local politicians bully you. In my long experience in Chicago, they never actually deal with a problem until they find out that their critics cannot be beaten into submission or bought out. Do your job.

Gary Orfield

Professor of Education & Social Policy

Harvard University