On February 23rd, Joshua Dwyer wrote an article for the Illinois Policy Institute in which he argued that policymakers should focus on increasing school choice in responding to Rockford's failing school system. First, I want to make clear that I am agnostic about school choice policy as lever for improving the education system, as I feel that neither "side" of the argument has adequately demonstrated the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of school choice as a lever for system-wide improvement. However, I am not agnostic about the appropriate use of evidence and argument. This response is not about school choice, but is about misusing evidence to build a poor argument; which is fitting, because Mr. Dwyer's argument wasn't really about school choice either.
Dwyer’s argument that Rockford is second highest in number of low-performing schools, while being the third highest in population (152,871 pop.) blatantly exploits the fact that Aurora, the city second highest in population (197,899 pop.), is split into two districts while Chicago and Rockford are only single districts. Most cities in Illinois have a single public school district, but Elgin is split into an east and a west district. So, while Dwyer is correct that Rockford is the third largest city with the second most low-performing schools, it is also true that Rockford is the second largest district with the second most low-performing schools.