Data drives increased graduation rates

Data drives increased graduation rates

Four-year graduation rates at Alabama and West Virginia high schools increased dramatically over the past decade, rising from the bottom half of national rankings to first and third, respectively. The improvements were driven by new standards included in President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative, which included a new standardized way for states to measure graduation rates and set goals to improve them. The Washington Post’s Andrew Van Dam explains how the Yellowhammer and Mountain states used data to increase the number of young adults with high school degrees. 

In particular, the two states focused on what Balfanz called an early warning system, tracking behavior, attendance and grades in the ninth grade, a critical point at which many future dropouts fall through the cracks in the transition from middle school to high school. … Both states worked with outside vendors to track vulnerable students and to share detailed data with their teachers. This data-driven approach allowed teachers to target specific students and figure out what was keeping them out of class or causing them to fail, whether it be work, family, bullies or social isolation. 

Louisiana’s high school graduation rate climbed from 71% in 2010-11 to 80% in 2018-19 – an impressive improvement unless you compare it to the national rate (86%) or the far bigger gains made by Alabama and West Virginia. 

Rural hospitals struggle to survive
Rural hospitals provide access to life-saving medical care to people in small towns across the country. But people in these areas are in jeopardy of losing this crucial access as their hospitals struggle to stay open because of financial woes. In America’s fragmented health care system, revenue is based almost entirely on the volume of medical services a hospital provides. As Vox’s Dylan Scott explains, this puts rural hospitals at an extreme disadvantage and leaves them with the tough choices. 

The US does not provide hospitals with a steady level of revenue, the kind of “global budget” where hospitals are given a set amount of money for their expected expenditures based on the patients they serve and the medical care they are likely to need. American hospitals have to try to bring in as much money as they can by performing as many services as they can, but without allowing their overhead to balloon. … These hospitals are also the most likely to see patients who are on Medicaid or uninsured, which means they end up recouping less money for the services they provide. Some of those people are uninsured because they live in a state that refuses to expand Medicaid through the ACA, another drag on hospitals’ finances.

Full capacity at juvenile justice centers 
Earlier this month, the Office of Juvenile Justice informed judges and district attorneys that Louisiana’s juvenile detention facilities were at full capacity – including the new area set aside for children at the maximum-security adult prison at Angola. Officials say the lack of space is partly due to ongoing renovations. But the root of the problem is that Louisiana has too many children serving long sentences – and a lack of less-restrictive alternatives. The Advocate editorial staff explains

“It is way past time … to send kids home, the majority of whom are in prison for nonviolent offenses. It’s also unfortunate that it took a crisis to force the state’s hand,” said Gina Womack, director of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, an advocacy group. We agree. Across the state, there is a shortage of not only the less-restrictive places to put troubled youth, but also neighborhood-based support that should be where many young people are reached at an age when it is still possible to steer kids onto more constructive paths.

Helping places mired in poverty 
Previous governmental forays into place-based industrial policy- the idea of providing aid to strengthen industries and employers in high-poverty areas – has had mixed results. But President Joe Biden included $1 billion for these types of projects, in the form of competitive grants, in the Build Back Better legislation. The New York Times’ Peter Coy explains how new evidence is bolstering this effort to reduce poverty by moving jobs to people. 

And lately some influential economists have come around to the idea that maybe place-based aid isn’t so bad after all. … The authors give three reasons for the reappraisal: First, America’s geographic divisions have hardened; convergence of incomes between rich and poor regions “has stalled or reversed in recent decades.” Second, it may be easier to subsidize job creation “at the place level than at the person level.” And third, one-size-fits-all employment subsidies are nonsensical. They should be applied in West Virginia, where they’re needed, but not in Silicon Valley, where they’re extraneous.

Number of the Day
79% – Percentage of excess savings that is held by the top half of earners. American families are sitting on $1.7 trillion in extra savings accumulated during the pandemic, but the top earners hold $1.35 trillion of it. (Source: New York Times)