Mark Keller’s recent letter to the editor is a great example of how Oregon’s media have failed its citizens. In it, Mark mistakenly bemoans the failure of Oregon’s schools and cites the infamous graduation rate statistics that have been widely broadcast by Oregon’s newspapers and other media channels. Most editors are smart enough to know that graduation rate is a terrible measure of school quality because graduation requirements can be easily manipulated. Indeed, better measures, like high school students’ SAT test scores that have been properly adjusted for test participation rate and students’ socioeconomic background, show that Oregon’s schools outperform the national average. Yet, the myth that graduation rate demonstrates Oregon’s education failure persists.
Why does this myth persist? Perhaps media reports of failure attract more attention and sell more advertisements than reports of competence do. Perhaps media owners would rather make more profit than spend a little extra on competent investigative reporting. Whatever the case, Mark Keller’s wayward letter – in which he proposes that a 25% cut in education funding is justified by Oregon’s graduation rate - shows that the media’s failure has real consequences. In fact, Oregon spends less per student on education than the national average, but apparently Mark is not aware of that (no thanks to Oregon's media). Don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame Mark. By failing to competently investigate the performance of Oregon schools, Oregon’s media disrespect Oregon’s educators and do a disservice to Oregon’s citizens. Oregon’s media must do better.
Corvallis (May 25)