Andy Matthews

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


This week, the Nevada Department of Education gave itself a big pat on the back as it released Nevada’s 2013 graduation rates.

Taken at face value, the self-praise might seem deserved — the state’s graduation rate jumped from 63 percent in 2012 to just over 70 percent in 2013.

But a closer look reveals that the state’s education officials have merely improved their own accounting skills and done little to advance student success. Prior to 2012, Nevada school districts counted students who transferred out of a district as dropouts. Now, students who move during high school are removed entirely from the graduation equation, thereby upping the perceived performance of state schools.

Even with the modest gains in the number of graduates last year, Nevada still lags behind the national average, and our children are paying the price.

No matter how you want to count graduates, we can all agree that Nevada’s schools are broken and that there’s plenty of room for improvement. While the Nevada Department of Education was busy adjusting its formula to make its failing schools look a little better, we at NPRI have been highlighting real solutions — those that actually increase the number of students graduating, not just improve our ability to count them.

This week, NPRI hosted two of the more than 5,500 events that took place across the United States in celebration of National School Choice Week. In Reno and Las Vegas, we screened a new documentary titled “The Ticket.” Directed by Bob Bowden, the film explores the different types of school choice that have been allowed in other states and the achievement that results when states stop protecting the education monopoly.

Bob Bowdon, maker of "The Ticket: The Many Faces of School Choice," responds to a question from KNXT's Kevin Wall.

One of the many successes championed in “The Ticket” is Saint Martin de Porres High School in Cleveland, a private school that low-income students can afford to attend thanks to school vouchers, or Opportunity Scholarships. While the Cleveland Metropolitan School District has a graduation rate of roughly 54 percent, Saint Martin graduates 97 percent of its students. If a near-perfect graduation rate isn’t impressive enough, 100 percent of those graduates are accepted into college.

School choice is a unifying concept and has a long history of drawing support from both Democrats and Republicans. Unfortunately, it’s often stopped by teacher unions who don’t want their education monopoly threatened by competition.

Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C., have implemented school choice, and it’s time for Nevada’s students to share in its benefits.

Fixing accounting errors is a fine thing, but the way to genuinely increase the number of students who graduate is to empower parents with more options regarding how and where their children are educated.

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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