Dixon drops the ball on dropouts
Isn't it a mayor's job to make her city look better than it is?
Apparently not yesterday for Sheila Dixon, who made a pretty big error in reference to Baltimore's high school dropout rate.
The mayor delivered prepared remarks at the city's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast at the Baltimore Convention Center. In questioning how much progress Baltimore has made since King's assassination in 1968, she cited a litany of statistics about the homicide rate, the HIV infection rate and, naturally, the high school dropout rate. According to my colleague Nick Madigan, who was in attendance, Dixon said that the city has a 70 percent dropout rate for African-American students.
The city's official dropout rate for African-Americans, as reported to the Maryland State Department of Education, is 11 percent. Now, that figure is probably a serious underestimation: It includes only the kids who are known to have dropped out after age 16. Kids who drop out before 16 are considered "truants," not dropouts. And those who don't report dropping out -- and therefore could conceivably have moved and enrolled in another school -- also aren't counted. But still. The number is not 70 percent.
The city's official graduation rate for African-Americans -- which, again, may be rosier than reality -- is 60 percent. A recent presentation by schools chief Andres Alonso said that about five in 10 kids who enter city high schools don't graduate.
I asked Sterling Clifford, a spokesman for the mayor, where she'd gotten her figures. "I think she remembered incorrectly," he said in an e-mail reply.