Tithing In Philly (not the good kind)

I grew up in Sinking Spring, PA. It's about an hour away from Philly. With baseball playoffs in full swing, I should probably disclose that although I grew up a Phillies fan, my time living in Kenmore Square transformed me into a Red Sox fan. Alas, the Sox are done for the year, while my little brother gets to cheer on the Phillies. Here is some more sobering news from Philly, that I saw on Eduwonk:

Philadelphia did a 10-year examination of a cohort of actual students –- 12,230 who were first-time ninth graders in District schools in 1999. Using data from the National Student Clearinghouse, the District’s accountability office determined that 1,258, or 10.3 percent, had graduated from college by the summer of 2009. (Roughly half bachelors degrees, and half associates degrees).

One story this blog is about:

3. ...A multi-kajillion-dollar effort to improve the ludicrous odds (7% or so) of a poor kid ever getting a college diploma.

One of the problems is that data is hard to find. State departments of education track each school's test scores. And graduation rates. But not college persistence data. Or labor market outcomes. I blogged about this last month (Bad Scoreboard). I wrote:

I'm excited about two things:

a. A new nonprofit, CollegeSuccess.net (which evidently just changed its name to Beyond 12), helps to track down each school’s true college success rate. They also offer other services, but it’s really the data tracking I’m excited about.

b. There is some new research, not yet officially launched, which will try to examine other long-term outcomes — health, happiness, prosperity — of charter lottery winners versus losers.

We need scoreboards that don’t show us, year after year, at a steady state near “100% proficiency” and “100% college admission.”

The Gates Foundation did a clever thing here. They're also worried about "Bad Scoreboard." So they offered a carrot.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on September 27 gave $3 million each to four cities working on college access and completion. The condition for receiving the grant was to do a cohort study like Philadelphia’s....

Mark Milliron, the deputy director of postsecondary improvement at Gates, (said): “The best way to keep our eye on this is to take a hard look at the number that starts in 9th grade and how many finish in 10 years.”

Looking at it this way “makes for a tougher conversation,” he said. “You can begin to ask the hard questions about whether there is the right kind of environment to allow students to get through the system and where are the barriers.”

Kati Haycock of Ed Trust says:

“The good news here is that more and more school districts around the country are deciding literally to hold themselves accountable,” Haycock said. “That they are collecting data to the best of their abilities and reporting it as honestly as they can is good news.”

That said, she added, “these numbers are pretty terrifying, if you assume that young people who don’t complete a postsecondary credential will find it hard not just initially but for the rest of their lives to find a job that can support a family.”

Still, it is not fair to “lay these numbers entirely at the feet of the School District and say that they’re not doing the job and not preparing students. … That’s not even close to true,” she said.

Colleges are equally culpable, she said.