Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

On dropout factories, baby boomers and hitting 100

"I'd like to think politicians are being more honest with you looking over their shoulders," one reader told us.
"I'd like to think politicians are being more honest with you looking over their shoulders," one reader told us.

The mail is in.

We received several comments about our piece on Rep. Bobby Scott’s claim that 12 percent of the nation’s high schools produced 50 percent of the dropouts. The statement by Scott, D-3rd, was rated True.

One reader said our research was incomplete. "For all you know, the same schools are producing half of the graduates. Suppose they are the biggest high schools in the country?"

We have no way of knowing, nor do we think that detracts from Scott’s point. The statistics Scott sited came from a 2007 report by Robert Balfanz, co-director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University and a widely quoted expert on the dropout issue. Balfranz did not list the names of individual schools he dubbed "dropout factories."  A "dropout factory" is defined as a high school where 40 percent or more of the freshmen don’t make it to their senior year.

Another reader noted that Virginia, in 2009, had 29 "dropout factories." He wanted to know if any were in Richmond. Again, we don’t know. Although the report identifies the troubled schools by state, it does not break them down to cities or counties.

Miles Grant was disappointed with our examination of a claim by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th, that 10,000 baby boomers a day are becoming eligible entitlement programs. We rated the statement True, noting that the first baby boomers turned 65 at the start of the year and became eligible for Medicare.

"Was this really a controversial statement in need of fact checking? Grant wrote on our Facebook page. "Seems like a thin excuse to give a True to a guy who says a lot of false stuff."

We don’t always chose statements that seem controversial. Sometimes, we look into a claim just because it seems interesting and a readers might wonder, "Is that right?" Cantor’s statement fit in that category.

We also received this gem from a reader who was unhappy with a Pants on Fire rating we gave Gordon Robertson for his claim that President Obama was "raised Muslim." Robertson, the chief executive office of the Christian Broadcast Network in Virginia Beach, is the son of televangelist Pat Robertson.

"Not often am I ashamed to live in Virginia," the email said. "Between you, Gov. McDonnell and Eric Cantor, I am ready to move out."

We found no effort in the email to refute Obama’s own writings, independent biographies and scads of news articles saying the president had a secular childhood.

Finally, we noted on Facebook that the piece we wrote on Cantor and the baby boomers last week marked the 100th Truth-O-Meter since PolitiFact Virginia was born late last October.

"Keep it up," wrote Joseph Crowley, "We need facts, not talking points and fear tactics."