I'm thinking of a number...

Everybody knows Detroit has a dropout problem. But no one, it seems, can say exactly how bad it is. According to a new study by the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University, just 31.9 percent of Detroit students graduate in four years. MSU researchers arrived at this figure using the so-called "cohort method," mandated by No Child Left Behind, which compares the number of high-school freshmen in a given year to the number of seniors four years later. This approach has its shortcomings; while it discounts the number of students who moved to charter schools or other districts, it does not track those who transferred to private schools or left Michigan altogether (this in a city that has lost about 4 percent of its population since 2000). Still, one suspects that the MSU researchers are nearer to the truth than the state, which guesstimates that 66.8 percent of Detroit youngsters finish all four years of high school. That's a whopping 35 percentage points higher than MSU's figure. Didn't Michigan sign on to the National Governors Association's "Graduation Compact" to improve and standardize graduation data? Whatever happened to that, anyway?

"Detroit schools grad rate: 32%" by Karen Bouffard, Detroit News, February 25, 2008