New Data

I discovered today that earlier this month, America's Promise Alliance released their 2009 Crisis in the Cities report, "Closing the Graduation Gap."

Bottom line, it presents bad news for Indianapolis. The Circle City is now 50th out of the 50 largest metropolitan cities in the country, for a graduation rate of 30.5 percent. Last year the report had Indy at 49th of 50 and it's no fun being one of the cities that went down, not up.

The report covers some traditional ground, looking at the disparities between urban and suburban districts, potential earnings of non-high school diploma holders vs. those with more education and rates of poverty for those without a diploma compared to those with or with more education.

I think the conclusion of the report draws some of the strongest attention to what this crisis really means.

At no point in our nation's recent history has the economy found itself in such dire straits. And at no point has the critical role of a quality education been more evident. For individuals facing a worsening economy and weakening labor market, a strong education may offer the best protection for weathering the storm. Likewise, it is also clear that the brunt of the crisis will be borne by those with the least education -- those without a high school diploma.

As this report and other research have shown, two very different worlds exist within American public schooling. In one, earning a diploma is the norm, something expected of every student; in the other, it is not. The stakes attached to graduating have never been higher.

I remember, in my previous time as a reporter, one school board meeting where a parent asked why the socioeconomic level of students in school buildings mattered. At the time, I remember being shocked as I sat there, about the complete lack of understanding this parent had about the challenges faced by those growing up in poverty and how much more it takes from schools and the community to help those children succeed.

Clearly, the parent lived in the first world and too many students in the school district were living in the second world.

I sent the Crisis in Cities report out to my colleagues here at Starfish. It's sobering data, but as I said to them, when you are at the bottom, you can only go up and that's why we're here.

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