The Tribune Effect: Misleading the public to sell “reform”

The Real Brizard Effect

The Tribune Effect

Today’s Tribune ignores the facts and goes with a whitewash of Jean-Claude Brizard’s record in Rochester.

The chart on the right was included in the newspaper’s print edition. It shows four years of data — raw numbers of graduates and dropouts from 2006-07 to 2009-10. Brizard came to Rochester in January of 2008, so, as they indicate with the faint pink column, only the last two year’s numbers are Brizard’s.

Two points.

One – raw numbers of graduates will go up and down every year. There are always “bulges” in enrollment from year to year, so a small gain in the number of graduates is relatively meaningless.

Two – this is not what Brizard is claiming. He is claiming that he oversaw a 12-13% increase in the graduation RATE. The Trib’s own headline says “New CEO, who led schools in Rochester, N.Y., oversaw rise in graduation rates but riled teachers.”

The truth is quite a bit different. I spent quite a bit of time yesterday trying to get at the data and found that there are a number of differing versions, so I decided to simply look at the accountability numbers cited for graduation rates each year in the state school report cards, a figure which is defined by NCLB.

My resulting chart is on the left, above, and shows the fairly unremarkable change in the graduation RATE in Rochester during the same time period shown on the Tribune chart, not including 2006-07 when Brizard was not there. So, Brizard is hired in the middle of the first year, graduation rates go up slightly after his first full year, from 49% to 52%, then fall again after his second year to 46%. These are the most current data from the New York State Department of Education web site. (I can’t link directly to the pages with the graduation data – you have to go to the web site link, choose a year, then choose the first item under “District/School report cards” which is “Accountability Overview etc.,” then choose Monroe County from the list of counties, then choose Rochester from the list of districts, then go to page 14 or 15 of that report. Sorry – but I couldn’t streamline it.)

I included these numbers in a press statement that I read and distributed at the Chicago Teachers’ Union press conference that took place at 3 pm Monday, just hours after Rahm’s announcement. The numbers I gave out have proven to be far more reliable than anything Brizard has claimed.

And in any case, he does not look like a magician, if that’s what we need. According to the exact same data on CPS’s district report card, our current HS graduation rate is 71.8%. So, again, I ask – why are we bringing Brizard here?

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.