Dropout Report Uses Inaccurate Data

Reviewer finds that Buckeye’s case for “dropout recovery” charter schools is made with inflated numbers

Contact: Teri Battaglieri (517) 203-2940;
Sherman Dorn (813) 205-6143;

EAST LANSING, Mi., (March 4, 2009)—A February report from the Buckeye Institute offers up “dropout recovery” charter schools as a solution for reducing Ohio’s dropout rate. But a new review of the report finds that it makes its case by relying on charter school graduation data that are inconsistent with state figures, “resulting in a dramatic overstatement of the graduation rates at the charters.”

The report, The High Cost of High School Dropouts in Ohio was written by Matthew Carr for the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions. It was reviewed for the Think Twice project by Sherman Dorn of the University of South Florida, a national expert on dropout data and policies.

The Buckeye report points out that Ohio’s drop out rate is too high and that there are large social costs associated with low levels of high school graduation including lower tax revenues and higher costs for medical care and incarceration. It suggests that enrolling high-risk teenagers in last-chance charter schools can increase the graduation rate and recommends that the state expand investment in such charter schools to increase the graduation rate and save resources.

The report borrows its formula from six previous reports by the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation on graduation rates in various states. Dorn observes that the Buckeye report, like the Friedman reports it emulates, “uses the existing literature on dropping out and school competition in a superficial way”—comparing the relative earnings and social burdens of high school graduates and dropouts, while ignoring extensive debate over the real costs of dropping out.

The report also ignores “a large body of useful research” on charter schools, even as it posits “dropout recovery” charter schools as the best solution to the so-called dropout problem.

The most glaring problem identified by Dorn’s review is that Ohio state data contradict the report’s exaggerated claims about the number of students graduating from the charter schools that the Buckeye report holds up as the solution, most run by a controversial for-profit education management company called White Hat Management. For example, one school that Ohio reports had fewer than 10 graduates in 2004-05 is asserted in the report to have graduated 145; another with 42 is claimed to have graduated 338.

“Overall, for 18 schools for which Ohio reported a specific number of graduates, the report claimed 1,610 more graduates in 2004-05 than what the state reported,” Dorn writes. “This documented exaggeration represents approximately half of the total graduates that the report claims for the 23 schools.” The Buckeye report doesn’t explain the source of its graduation data or discuss the discrepancy between its counts and those reported by the state.

Dorn recommends that state policymakers interested in increasing graduation rates choose not to rely on the Buckeye report, but instead, “seek out the available well-researched scholarship on the topic.”

Find Sherman Dorn’s review and a link to the Buckeye report at:

About The Think Twice Project
The Think Twice project provides the public, policy makers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected think tank publications. It is a collaboration of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University and the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.


The mission of the Great Lakes Center is to improve public education for all students in the Great Lakes region through the support and dissemination of high quality, academically sound research on education policy and practices.

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