Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 2, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

High School Drop Out Rate


  • New statistics reveal that Arizona is tied with Louisiana for the worst high school drop out rate in the country. Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne will talk about the latest numbers.
Guests:
  • Tom Horne - Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction


View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
Tonight on "Horizon", more kids are graduating from high school in Arizona, but the state still leads the nation in high school dropouts. We'll look at what's being done about the problem. Plus, the fight for free speech is ultimately decided at the U.S. Supreme Court. We'll talk to an ASU professor about the latest First Amendment battles. Next on "Horizon".

>> Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by the friends of Channel 8, members who provide financial support to this Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant. Welcome to "Horizon". Don Goldwater officially announced his candidacy for governor this afternoon. The 50-year-old is the third candidate to enter the Republican primary. The nephew of the late Barry Goldwater, Don Goldwater says his name may help his chances, but his focus on such issues as illegal immigration will ultimately attract voters.

>> Don Goldwater:
Phoenix has the highest property crime rate in the nation. 80\% of all additional activity over last five years is a direct result of illegal immigration. Jobs are being taken by illegal immigrants who in some cases are forced to take less than minimum wage pay. Many times the payroll taxes are not being collected or reported and most of their wages are being sent outside the country where Arizona earnings single largest economic agent south of the border.

>> Michael Grant:
Goldwater resigned his job as director of special events at the department of administration to run for governor. Although he's never held public office, Goldwater has been involved in the Republican Party and served as a state delegate at last year's Republican national convention. For the fourth year in a row, an annual report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Arizona tied for first in the percentage of 16 to 19-year-olds who dropped out of high school. In a moment, I'll talk to superintendent of public instruction Tom Horne and former ASU president Lattie Coor about the problem. But first, Paul Atkinson takes a closer look at the numbers.

>> Paul Atkinson:
This is a graduation ceremony for the suns diamondbacks education academy, a school that targets students at risk of dropping out. The annual Annie E. Casey kids count report found Arizona's high school dropout rate was the worst of any state in the year 2000, 18\%, accounting for some 49,000 students. 2003, the dropout rate decreased to 12\% and 34,000 students but still rank as the worst in the nation.

>> Sybill Francis:
First of all, I think all of us in Arizona no matter where we believe we are ranked, and I know there is some debate over that, I think we realize we are not graduating enough kids from high school.

>> Paul Atkinson:
The cost is hard to measure but there is a harm to individuals who fail to graduate from high school as well as to society.

>> Sybill Francis:
Juvenile justice, social services, medical cost, all of those things that add up to a tremendous cost to society if our children are not educated and do not do well in school.

>> Paul Atkinson:
The suns diamondbacks education academy targets students in high school who have dropped out or who are likely to drop out. A more comprehensive approach is seen as the best way to address the issue.

>> Sybill Francis:
We know from scientific research by the time a child reaches the age of 5, their vocabulary, the level of vocabulary they have mastered can tell you quite a bit about the likelihood of success as far as high school. If the child is ready to learn in first grade, that has a huge impact on their reading and math. That indicates their level of third grade highly correlated with whether or not a child will drop out of high school.

>> Paul Atkinson:
Educators that target early learning should help decrease the high school dropout rate in the future. The goal is to push Arizona further down the list dropout rates.

>> Michael Grant:
Joining me now is Tom Horne, state superintendent of public instruction. Also here is former ASU president Lattie Coor. Coor is chairman and CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona. Lattie, good to see you again.

>> Lattie Coor:
Good to see you, Michael.

>> Michael Grant:
Tom, you're around all the time.

>> Tome Horne:
I love this show, I love "Horizon".

>> Michael Grant:
You want to argue with the report.

>> Tome Horne:
The buster of statistics. Before I do that, I want to make clear what we are doing to decrease the dropout rate. You can judge a public official by what he does with his budget. I put scarce funds into creating a position that didn't exist any more. Reducing the dropout rate and between the time I took office and now we have increased our graduation rate from 72\% to 77\%. This is something I take very seriously and we're working very hard on. There are three independent studies of graduation rates, which show us at the average for the country based on the way they calculate it. The idea that we're last is absurd. This report was based on -

>> Michael Grant:
How did they approach the subject?

>> Tome Horne:
They took the census data, of the 15 to 19-year-olds how many were in school, and how many were not. They were counting dropouts people who came from another country and never showed up at school. People we never saw much less had a chance to teach. That's not an appropriate way to calculate a dropout statistic.

>> Michael Grant:
If I understand it correctly, they go to census data and they say, all right, in one column I see we have a million, 16 to 19-year-olds in the State of Arizona. On the question are you in school, 880,000 of those people checked yes, I am. Meaning 120,000 were not. That produces a 12\% rate. Is that in the ballpark.

>> Tome Horne:
That's the nonsensical method they used. We are developing a way to track students, so a student starts in 9th grade, we know if the student graduates or ends up as a charter school, private school or drops out. We are developing much more sophisticated ways to track these things. There is a lot of criticism of self-reporting of data. There are three organizations, Manhattan institute, urban institute and kids.org. Let me mention that New Mexico 65\%, New York 64\%, Florida 59\%. You know, being at the national average when 49th in funding is pretty good but we are working very hard to increase our graduation rate.

>> Michael Grant:
It's still a problem regardless. Lattie, it's hard to get a data feel for what the universe is here. I would think it would make it somewhat difficult to treat the problem.

>> Lattie Coor:
It's very difficult. To date, there really is no valid, reliable interstate way to compare data for dropouts. There are efforts underway. I think superintendent Horne's effort to take this information system in Arizona and trace students, track students, follow them is one of those. But there isn't a good way to date. What it clear, however, and however we aggregate the data, even with the wonderful improvements that Tom has just described in the last two or three years in Arizona, a quarter of the kids in Arizona and in many, many other states, more in other states, less in some, who enter the 9th grade don't graduate from high school. When you lose a quarter of youngsters who don't have that very significant kind of foundational accomplishment educationally in this day and age, that's a significant problem.

>> Tome Horne:
What Lattie said is important, in today's economy, muscle power doesn't do it anymore. You have to have proficiency in reading, writing and math. That's why we devoted budget resources to create a position to study best practices and dropout information and spread that through the high school.

>> Lattie Coor:
Things are going on simultaneously, to speak to your initial point. We have to keep hammering away at getting the data right. That's going on in the superintendent's office, national governor's association just adopted a very significant proposal to get data across the country. Simultaneously, we've got to be working to get more of these youngsters through high school and get that foundation.

>> Michael Grant:
For example, if you had a reliable way to compare the data, you could look either at an individual school, at a school district or at a state to say okay, those are some things that do seem to be working and conversely, I suppose, we could look at another school district or state and say, well, I think we'll kind of avoid those techniques.

>> Lattie Coor:
There is a good set of data for that kind of work. When look at individual schools, how they perform, so there is a foundation. It's simply comparing it in the aggregate that has proven difficult.

>> Tome Horne:
Basically four areas, outside mentoring, peer counseling, flexible hours, career technical education and we're locating those kinds of programs under those four categories that do the best job. We had a focus on success program to let other high schools know we're having high school renewal programs. Not just to keep them in school but developing the desire for them to learn so they're not only in school but acquiring the proficiencies they will need to pass the tests and perform in the economy.

>> Michael Grant:
Are those some things we are doing currently that we did not do in the past?

>> Tome Horne:
There's a major program to study, the microcosm that did well.

>> Michael Grant:
Do we have a very good feel for what the most at risk years are? Your freshman year you're most at risk? Are you tiredest in your senior year and that's why it's likely to strike?

>> Lattie Coor:
Let me respond in a slightly different way, though I think it gets at the point you're raising. It is clear and the work we have done in our center that the architecture of success has four very significant moments in a student's life. School readiness, the capacity to learn properly when they enter school. The school readiness in a host of ways, kindergarten or other work is a key. Probably the most significant is capacity in reading and math as the student leaves the third and fourth grade. The probability of success beyond that drops significantly. The third is the middle school transition years where it doesn't show up immediately but where there are some major consequences and then the fourth is the period that Tom was talking about, the high school years where there are clear points of vulnerability, students showing academic troubles, other difficulties that show signs needing one-on-one intervention. But if we don't look at the whole architecture of that success, we're not going to have the long-term success that we really need in getting students through high school.

>> Michael Grant:
How much in Arizona are we impacted like things like the rapidly growing population, the transients of population, certainly the percentage of population that is non-English speaking and is in the school system? What sort of contributory factors are those in the dropout rates?

>> Tom Horne:
You put your finger on some very important points. With respect to the English language learners we have a focus to teach English as quickly as possible. We're making sure they learn English quickly so they can compete with their peers academically. With respect to transients we are trying to get the curriculum as consistent throughout the state. The AIMS test are based on those standards so we can hold the schools accountable for doing as good a job as possible, making sure the elementary schools do a good job as well as middle school and high school.

>> Michael Grant:
Those factors do those by definition make the dropout rate tougher to tackle in Arizona than it might be in my native state of Kansas?

>> Tome Horne: I could say that because I don't want to have excuses. We're going to do whatever we need to do to overcome those and we're going to fore example, with English language learners we're going to teach them English as fast as we can, make sure the schools have good programs so they will be able to compete and it will be less of a disadvantage.

>> Michael Grant:
I guess one of the factors being considered, realization of different factors that you face that may be in contrast to, for example, that state that does very well, may guide you to a different set, a better set, whatever, of solutions.

>> Lattie Coor:
Aspirations, levels of aspirations, levels of experience with educational success in the family and in the community has an effect, the ability to function well in the language obviously has an ability to effect. It should not be, as Tom says, an excuse. It is a set of circumstances that characterize Arizona.

>> Michael Grant:
There have been a lot of studies that show there is not necessarily a correlation between spending money and educational achievement. Any argument with that premises, Tom.

>> Tome Horne: There's something called coefficient of effectiveness. You can also a high coefficient of effectiveness. I see the important part of my job is emphasize accountability when I go to the legislature to say we should put more resources into education that we can show academic results for those resources. If you have a system that uses its money efficiently, to show academic results then it does make a big difference. As Arizona climbs from 49th to a higher level of resources we will continue to show higher academic results. Our kids are performing above average so we are doing well considering the resources we have and I expect to demonstrate to the legislature because we're holding everybody accountable, we have a high coefficient of resources.

>> Michael Grant:
The temptation is to think if we can find one more program or spend a little more on existing programs we'll produce positive results. Do you buy it?

>> Lattie Coor:
The aggregate effect is if you're 49th in the nation in level of expenditure, a lot of other states I think not recklessly have concluded there is a basic level of investment that is needed. To me, making sure we understand that and understand the level of investment has to be a part of this program.

>> Michael Grant:
Okay.

>> Tome Horne:
One thing, I just want people to understand each though we were 49th in spending for education, we did an objective study, we're above average in academic results and at average in our graduation rate.

>> Michael Grant:
Tom, Lattie, good to see you again.

>> Tome Horne:
Thanks.

>> Michael Grant:
A New York Times reporter begins her fifth week in a federal detention center. Investigative reporter Judith Miller refused to turn over notes or talk to federal prosecutors in the investigation of who leaked the name of a CIA agent to reporters. The Supreme Court was asked to intervene, but refused to review the contempt of court charge against Miller. The episode is just the latest fight over the First Amendment. ASU professor Joe Russomanno edited a recently published book entitled "Defending the First: Commentary on first amendment issues and cases." I spoke to Professor Russomanno about the book and current first amendment issues. Joe, Judith Miller case is unique on a number of scores but one of the reasons it's unique as we were discussing a couple of minutes ago is that Judith Miller never published anything.

>> Joe Russumanno:
Right. She never published nor did her paper the New York Times publish anything based on the information that she apparently received from her confidence source.

>> Michael Grant: Why is protection of confidential sources articulate for us why at least some people believe that protection of the confidential sources is so critically next to an effective exercise of first amendment?

>> Joe Russumanno: Well, for a press to work properly, for journalism to be able to be conducted in an effective way, we need a free flow of information and that's what many people would argue the first amendment is about. Guaranteeing that free flow of information. When a reporter and a source get together and the source grants information based on confidentiality, that is the free flow of information occurring under those circumstances. If the reporter is forced to disclose, in other words go against his or her word and disclose the identity of that source, then what is apt to happen, at least the argument goes, not only will that source dry up and never cooperate again with that reporter, probably with any reporter, but a lot of other potential sources who would grant information only based on confidentiality will also dry up.

>> Michael Grant:
And the guarantee of freedom of the press therefore is impaired.

>> Joe Russumanno:
Exactly.


>> Michael Grant:
But the Supreme Court has made it pretty clear that no, there is no constitutionally based source protection implied in the first amendment.

>> Joe Russumanno:
Particularly when it comes to grand jury situations which of course is the kind of situation that Judith Miller of the New York times was in, Matthew Cooper of "Time" magazine. This was a grand jury investigation, still is ongoing and the Supreme Court has been very clear, this is one of the few areas in this bigger area that where the Supreme Court and the law in general is crystal clear. There is no reporter's privilege when it comes to grand jury situations. What Miller and Cooper were trying to do is to challenge that principle. They were hoping that this case would be heard by the Supreme Court and that the previous precedent would be overturned.

>> Michael Grant:
So the real lesson of this is, if you've got a confidential source, hope that you get subpoenaed by a state grand jury in a state, which has a shield law, not a federal grand jury, correct?

>> Joe Russumanno:
Well, that -- the odds would certainly be more in your favor that way. 31 states have shield laws that to one extent or another protect reporters in these situations. That is a very important point, I think, as I say to one extent or another. Even within those 31 shield laws there is no uniformity. I think if anything else what this entire Judith Miller and "Time" magazine situation have shown us is that we at least need a consistent uniform standard no matter where you are practicing journalism in this country.

>> Michael Grant:
Let's fan out a little more to the book. The book attempts to take a kind of inside the process of various first amendment cases?

>> Joe Russumanno:
Exactly. What we have here are 9 different chapters authored by attorneys who have litigated cases at the United States Supreme Court. So with one part of the process or another, each of these attorneys takes us inside a case or in some situations several cases that he or she was involved with over the years.

>> Michael Grant:
One of the principles, one of the cases involved was the cross-burning case. That involved a statute out of Virginia?

>> Joe Russumanno:
That's right.

>> Michael Grant:
Give us the basic facts on that one, Joe.

>> Joe Russumanno:
This is a consolidation of two different cases. The circumstances of one of those was surrounding a KKK rally that was taking place out in the countryside in Virginia. Supposedly far away from the population but not quite far enough away because someone who was driving by a rural highway saw this 30 foot cross being burned at night and it stood out quite a bit. That was the beginning of the claim against that situation. The other part of the case that was consolidated was more of a residential area cross burning, if you will.

>> Michael Grant:
And what justice O'Connor said, she wrote the majority opinion for the court, is the Virginia statute which sort of presumed burning a cross any place was in fact a crime, went too far. Right?

>> Joe Russumanno:
Right. To assume -- while the court had a number of problems with the circumstances and to a large extent rejected the first amendment-based claim, what she said in her opinion for the court was to assume that cross burning automatically is an intent to intimidate is also a problem. So in some respects it was what we might call a split decision, what some people have referred to as a compromised decision.

>> Michael Grant:
Critical element here, I know many people are going to go hold it, what about the flag burning context and certainly people get very incensed about flag burning, I guess you can't make as strong an argument flag burning will actually strike some personal fear and perhaps some very well-founded fear in people. You may be irritated from a civic standpoint and perhaps understand ABLY so.

>> Joe Russumanno:
Not only fear element but potential for harm. As we were talking about beforehand, justice Thomas in this particular case spoke at length about the potential harm that cross burning brings with it. When you see a burning cross, many people literally fear for their lives. I'm not sure we can say the same kind of potential for harm exists when flag burning occurs.

>> Michael Grant:
Okay. Joe, thank you very much for joining us.

>> Joe Russumanno:
Thank you.

>> Michael Grant:
Good book.

>> Joe Russumanno:
Thank you.

>> Michael Grant:
from kindergarten through 12th grade, charter schools and our state's universities and community college. The public education system is challenged by record enrollment and population growth. Our education report card Wednesday at 7 on "Horizon". Michael Grant: Governor Janet Napolitano joins me on Thursday for her monthly appearance on "Horizon". If you'd like to ask the governor a question, please E-mail it to "Horizon" at asu.edu. Thank you very much for joining us this evening. I'm Michael Grant. Hope you have a great one. Good night.

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