Hechinger Institute hypes the obvious — this is a role model for reporters??

I received an e-mail advertisement for a “webinar” on “The Dropout Crisis” from the Hechinger Institute. This is an organization that claims it “exists to equip journalists with the knowledge and skills they need to produce fair, accurate and insightful reporting.”

Both the e-mail and the webpage for the seminar claim that “new research shows that 17 states produce some 70 percent of the students who don’t graduate.” Is that a mundane claim that is being hyped to produce seminar enrollment, or is it truly interesting? A quick check of the relevant table from the 2007 Digest of Education Statistics reveals that –voila!– the 17 states with the highest high school enrollment also contain about 70 percent of all 9-12 enrollment in 50 states and DC (70.4%, if you want a third significant digit). In other words, this fact would be entirely expected simply from the pattern of school enrollment across the states. 

So… is the Hechinger Institute modeling the type of “fair, accurate and insightful” publications that they wish reporters to produce, or are they trying to jack up enrollment with scary and misleading statistics? C’mon, folks: high school graduation and dropout patterns are of serious concern as it is, without modeling patently bad reporting.