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Learning Curve

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Voucher supporters' dropout-worthy math

If the first advertisements in Indiana's pro-voucher campaign are any indication, supporters will push half-truths and misinformation to make their case.

Consider this claim: "Every 21 minutes, another Indiana student drops out of school."

That's the line in an ad sponsored by the Foundation for Educational Choice and School Choice Indiana as part of their new Why Not? Indiana campaign.

The number looked suspicious to me, given Indiana's improving graduation rates, so I did some math and came up with a calculation that came close to the 21-minute figure used in the ads. Then I did an informal poll of newsroom employees, asking what they thought when they read the line. To a person, they believed it meant a student was dropping out every 21 minutes around the clock.

But if that were the case, more than 25,000 Indiana students would have dropped out last year. In truth, it was less than 5,000.

Their calculation appears to be based on the number of minutes in a school year, allowing them to inflate their claim.

Next up for the truth meter: "Indiana students rank behind the countries Korea and China in math" …

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at