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Misleading Statistics Lead to an Illusion

Reading the daily newspaper produces statistics to reflect on...what do they mean, are they valid, are they misleading, etc.

For example, consider the following from the Indianapolis Star (July 1, 2012)...

The graduation rate in Indianapolis Public Schools has soared from 48 percent in 2009 to 64.6 percent in 2011.

That gain is typically cited as the most powerful evidence that schools in IPS are improving.

It might also be an illusion.

An Indianapolis Star examination of state graduation data shows that IPS' higher graduation rate is being driven mightily by an increase in the use of waivers -- a process that allows districts to award regular diplomas to students who did not pass the state's required tests for algebra and English.

Statewide, approximately 8 percent of students in 2011 received such diplomas. But in IPS, that percentage was a startling 26.7 percent -- a percentage that has been increasing over the past few years.

Put another way, without waiver diplomas, IPS' graduation rate would be 47.3 percent. That is slightly below its 2009 overall graduation rate of 48.6 percent.

So what does this all of this statistical garbage mean to you....is it an illusion?

And, what is it that the public will hear and retain: "The graduation rate in Indianapolis Public Schools has soared from 48 percent in 2009 to 64.6 percent in 2011." Ugh!