The common measure is important. Before it was adopted, states reported graduation rates in their own form and fashion, which made comparisons unreliable. Now comparisons can be used to promote greater accountability and raise graduation rates even higher.
That is, if a state wants to do so.
This gets us around to football — as it usually does this time of year.
Alabama is one of a number of states that stand accused of putting more emphasis on football than on academics. But is that true?
According to a number of studies, it appears to be.
So let’s add one more to the mix. Let’s compare high school graduation rates to success on the gridiron. When we do, this is what we get:
Among Alabama and its neighbors, Tennessee has the highest high school graduation rate, Mississippi (yes, Mississippi) is second. Alabama comes in third. Georgia and Florida bring up the rear.
Now look at the BCS rankings, which determine which teams play for college football’s national championship.
The University of Alabama is No. 2. The University of Georgia is No. 3. The University of Florida is No. 4. The universities of Mississippi and Tennessee are unranked.
Call that an unflattering, if not unrelated, correlation. Football-wise, there’s reason to cheer. Graduation-wise, absolutely not.
Alabama can tout its graduation-rate superiority over Georgia and Florida if it so chooses. It may make us feel good, like a massage for tired muscles. But no amount of football prowess can overshadow the fact the state’s grad rate languishes in the nation’s bottom half — still.
That’s what we should emphasize.