The National Dropout Rate

Sara - posted on 07/26/2010 ( 19 moms have responded )

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High school drop-out rate in major US cities at nearly 50 percent
By Barry Grey

A report released Tuesday by an educational advocacy group founded by retired general and former Bush administration Secretary of State Colin Powell finds that almost half of all public high school students in the US’ fifty largest cities fail to graduate.

The report states that only 52 percent of public high school students in these cities graduate after four years, while the national average is 70 percent. Some 1.2 million public high school students drop out every year, according to researchers.

The report finds that, overall, 17 of the public school systems in 50 major cities have graduation rates of 50 percent or lower, and the average graduation rate of all 50 systems is 58 percent. The findings are based on federal Department of Education statistics for the 2003-2004 school year.

The study, sponsored by America’s Promise Alliance and prepared by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, also shows a staggering difference between the drop-out rates in major urban school districts and those in adjoining and more affluent suburban districts. Overall, high school graduation rates are 15 percentage points lower in urban schools as compared to those in the suburbs. In twelve cities, the disparities exceed 25 percentage points.

In some cases, the gap between the cities, with their large concentrations of working class and poor residents, and the suburbs is even greater. The widest discrepancies cited in the report are in Baltimore, Maryland, where only 34.6 percent of public high school students graduate, and its suburbs, where 81.5 percent acquire diplomas after four years, and in Columbus, Ohio, with a graduation rate of 40.9 percent as compared to 82.9 percent in the suburbs.

The city-suburb split is also immense in such metropolitan centers as New York (47.4 percent vs. 82.9 percent), Cleveland (42.2 percent vs. 78.1 percent), Philadelphia (49.2 percent vs. 82.4 percent), Chicago (55.7 percent vs. 84.1 percent), Los Angeles (57.1 percent vs. 77.9 percent), and Atlanta (46.1 percent vs. 61.8 percent).

A separate chart showing the graduation rates for the principal school districts in the 50 largest US cities points to the virtual collapse of public education in major urban centers.

Detroit, by many calculations the poorest US city, graduates less than 25 percent (24.9 percent) of its public high school students. Indianapolis Public Schools graduate 30.5 percent of their students, and the figures for the Cleveland Municipal City School District and the Baltimore City Public School System are 34.1 percent and 34.6 percent respectively.

Powell founded America’s Promise Alliance, which is chaired by his wife, Alma, and is described as a joint effort of nonprofit groups, corporations, charities, community leaders, faith-based organizations and individuals. The former Secretary of State said of the study, “When more than 1 million students a year drop out of high school, it’s more than a problem, it’s a catastrophe.”

The concluding section of the document released by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, which publishes Education Week, addresses the central issue of social inequality that is reflected in the drop-out statistics. “If three out of every 10 students in the nation failing to graduate is a reason for concern,” it states, “then the fact that just half of those educated in America’s largest cities are finishing high school truly raises cause for alarm. And the much higher rates of high school completion among their suburban counterparts—who may literally live and attend school right around the corner—place in particularly harsh and unflattering light the deep undercurrents of inequality that plague American public education.”

Rick Dalton, president of College for Every Student, a Vermont group that helps low-income students prepare for college, said the urban-suburban divergence “just speaks to the crisis in the US. It is about income. Family income drives it all.”

The study also notes that drop-out rates are substantially higher for blacks and other minorities. It states: “The gaps between whites and historically disadvantaged minority groups can reach as high as 25 percentage point nationally.”

One measure of the social implications of the decay of the public school system was noted by researchers, who said people failing to graduate from high school were eight times more likely to end up in prison.

Of the twelve cities where the graduation gap between urban and suburban schools exceeds 25 percentage points, nine are in the Northeast and Midwest. This is the so-called “rust belt,” where three decades of plant closures in such key industries as auto and steel have had the most devastating impact. In cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit, millions of decent-paying jobs have been wiped out, workers’ wages and living standards have been driven down, and the basic social infrastructure of entire communities has been gutted.

This process, carried out under Democratic as well as Republican administrations on the national, state and local level, has had its counterpart in tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation of big business, cuts in social services and a concentrated assault on public education for the working class. By such means, a massive redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top has been effected, with the economy and government policy increasingly concentrated on generating ever greater income for a fabulously wealthy elite on the basis of speculation on the stock market and other parasitic forms of financial manipulation, including no small amount of outright swindling.

The Bush administration’s so-called “No Child Left Behind” educational policy, enacted with the support of congressional Democrats, has marked an intensification of the assault on public education for the majority of the population. The program, which sets performance benchmarks for public schools, entails punitive measures, up to and including the shutdown of schools that fail to “perform.” It has gone hand in hand with government subsidies of various kinds for private schools and the encouragement of “charter schools” and for-profit schools that drain resources from urban public school districts.

The inevitable—and intended—result is a more and more openly class-based education system, in which working-class youth receive substandard schooling.

The response of the Bush administration to the America’s Promise Alliance report was to call for a more standardized means of tracking drop-out rates, within the framework of “No Child Left Behind.”

The vast chasm between city and suburban schools is but one expression of a society increasingly polarized between a wealthy elite and the rest of the population. Recent studies by Edward N. Wolff of the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College reveal that the top 1 percent of the US population holds 34.3 percent of the net worth of American households. The richest 10 percent of the population holds nearly 71 percent of the national household wealth. The bottom 80 percent of American households accounts for just 15.3 percent of wealth. The bottom 40 percent of households possesses just 0.2 percent of wealth.

It is this last segment of the population that largely comprises the populations of cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Indianapolis where high school drop-out rates range from 65 percent to 75 percent.

These statistics reveal the nightmarish reality behind the “American Dream” and similar clichés beloved of the media and the political establishment. The destruction of education for millions of working class youth gives the lie to the democratic pretensions of the American ruling elite.

None of the major presidential candidates and neither of the two big business parties can address the virtual collapse of public education revealed in the report issued on Tuesday. It starkly exposes the socially destructive and irrational workings of the capitalist system, which is defended by the Democrats and Republicans, and which has as its fundamental social principle not the common good, but the enrichment of a wealthy elite at the expense of the vast majority of the people.


It is a rather biased article, so please do your best to overlook the bias. Regardless of it's political leaning, the numbers are staggering and highly disturbing. What are your thoughts on improving a situations that only seems to be deteriorating? How do we help those in urban districts have a fighting chance of succeeding? Is data like this proof that people are not born with the same opportunities?

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Krista - posted on 07/30/2010

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That's what I don't understand either, Laura.

Let's say you have School A, School B, and School C. School A is fancy-pants with all kinds of arts and language programs, a full roster of extracurriculars, and a science lab that rivals NASA's. School B is run of the mill -- it does the job, and has a few nice bits, but isn't anything to write home about. School C is the shits -- the textbooks are all out of date, they're operating on a shoestring budget sponsored by Ralph's House of Pleasure, and their music program consists of giving the kids kazoos and setting them loose on the cracked, glass-strewn playground.

So you institute a voucher system. Obviously everybody wants their kid to go to school A. But they only have so much room, right? So, they look through the applications and pick the students who they want. They pick the kids from good neighbourhoods, who went to the "right" preschools and whose parents are prominent in the community. School B takes whatever kids it wants from School A's rejects -- your working-class kids who play tag on the streets, instead of organized sports. But of course, School B only has so much room as well.

So who gets to go to School C? The kids that were not wanted by Schools A and B. And those kids have no choice -- it's either that, or don't go to school at all.

That is why this conservative reverence for the free market is WRONG, again and again and again, because it continues to operate under the assumption that it is a buyer's market. And it is not. Whether it is schools, or employment, or hospital services, or insurance companies, the demand ALWAYS outstrips the supply. There will ALWAYS be a segment of society that has to make do with the crap choice that nobody else wanted, solely because it is the only choice left to them. Not everybody can work for the same fantastic company. Some people ARE going to have the choice of working for a shithead, or not working at all. And some families are going to have the choice of sending their kid to a crappy school, or not sending them at all. Because not everybody can attend the same fantastic school. So in a free market scheme, the crappy school (just like the crappy employer), has absolutely no incentive to improve, because it KNOWS that it will always have people lined up at the door, looking to get in, simply because they have no other choice.

Kelly - posted on 07/26/2010

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In my opinion it shows how defunct our public education system has become. We have done nothing but throw more and more money at education, and it has obviously been proven over time that the bureaucratic model doesn't work. The average cost per child nationwide is $10,000 a year. The average private school tuition per year is $3100.

I am a firm believer in vouchers, and I wish the public education system would just cease to exist. It serves absolutely no purpose. It is just one more thing that is better off without government interference.

If you look at the big picture in urban areas, there are many factors at play in regards to dropout rates. Race, home life, and gang presence are the big ones and they are all tied together. Not a racist statement, just fact.

Kelly - posted on 07/26/2010

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I guess I just see it as a perfect supply and demand issue. If parents had more freedom (through vouchers) to choose a school for their kids, schools would be forced to meet higher standards. If my daughter's private school doesn't provide what she needs to get a top notch education, I pull her out and put my money in a school that WILL provide what she needs. If enough parents do that, obviously the school won't have any students and will go under.



The public education system is just starting to see that issue as more and more people choose to homeschool their kids, or pay the extra for private schools. There are tons of religious and non-religious schools popping up all over to meet the demands.



The problem is, the government will continue to funnel money into defunct school districts, and the issues will continue. And then there are the teachers unions......... Whole other subject there.

Kelly - posted on 07/26/2010

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Krista, with all respect, we are not Canada. Look at the difference between Canada's "high" dropout rates, and the "high" dropout rates in the US. I never went to school in Canada so therefore I cannot comment on your system as well as I can the system we have here in the US.

I think there is a misconception out there about private school. Not all private schools are extremely expensive, and believe it or not, they are everywhere. I had a choice of 3 to put my daughter in where we are now, and the population is under 10,000 people.

I don't believe I am throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater on this one at all. How many decades have the public schools in the US slipped further and further towards complete failure? And how much money is enough Sara? I found some stats quickly from 2005, we can all probably agree that the amounts have only gone up in the last couple of years..........
Dollars spent PER PUPIL by city:
Detroit $13,500
NYC $15,400
LA $11,600
D.C. $15,400
Boston $16,800
Cleveland $12,100
Baltimore $10,700
Indianapolis $14,400

http://www.heritage.org/static/reportima...

Interestingly enough, the schools with the MOST funding per student actually have the higher dropout rates. Go figure huh?

And I really disagree with the privatization issue. When schools are private, and parents directly pay, they are much more likely to pull their kids out of an underperforming school, or demand more for their money. (Obviously, since there is apparently a widespread misconception out there that public schools are underfunded) The demand for a good education has worked well in the privatization of colleges and I think it would work just as well with primary and secondary schools.

Sara - posted on 07/26/2010

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"We have done nothing but throw more and more money at education, and it has obviously been proven over time that the bureaucratic model doesn't work"

I think the data in this article almost points to the opposite being true. The problem with urban schools is there isn't ENOUGH money, while suburban schools that are better funded have lower drop out rates. I don't disagree with your entire post, I think if local governments were more directly involved in education, we'd be better off. However, i don't think the system should be privatized. It's not worked for other systems that are just as complicated. Basic education should not have a profit motive or it will leave people out.

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Isobel - posted on 07/30/2010

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Hey Diane, clearly while throwing around buzz words with no meaning attached, you forgot the question being asked...again.

I have a question about this voucher system, I assume that they would all be private schools, so would they still be allowed to discriminate about who was "allowed in" since every school has a finite number of spots, it seems to me that inner city kids would still end up getting shafted in the crappy schools that are owned and operated by the same slum-lords that own and run their apartment buildings. How, exactly would this system help the disadvantaged?

LaCi - posted on 07/30/2010

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"Right now they are doing bussing in some areas. I know people that have moved (one left Buffalo, NY in particular) because their kids were going to be bussed across town to the "crappy" school instead of going to the one by their house. "

people have been protesting and lawyering up in louisville since they started bussing. Elementary school kids on two hour bus rides each way, ridiculous. I'd really love to see just one person who favors bussing speak about it, because I have yet to see any favorable opinions of it. Which is one reason I don't understand why it's still being done. Yet another lawsuit over it this year, actually.

Isobel - posted on 07/26/2010

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OK, I was a little judgmental in the last answer, actually...I am curious to hear how the voucher system could work FOR THE DISADVANTAGED??? if you could explain to me how this system could work for the poor...I am more than receptive to hearing the answer...cause obviously, this system isn't working

Kelly - posted on 07/26/2010

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Right now they are doing bussing in some areas. I know people that have moved (one left Buffalo, NY in particular) because their kids were going to be bussed across town to the "crappy" school instead of going to the one by their house. The largest slumlord in the nation is the US government. Sec 8 housing ring a bell?

Charter schools might be the answer that makes everyone happy.......
"Charter schools are public schools that use a mix of taxpayer funds and privately raised dollars to run their schools. They're free and open to all students but are independently managed by individuals or corporations. They run much the way businesses are: competing for students, top teachers and fundraising dollars.

They differ from traditionally run schools in that they have the autonomy to hire and fire staff and set their own curriculum without school board approval. Charters also have longer school years — almost 11 months — and longer days than traditional schools." (Said much better than I would have rambled) Here's the full article:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009...

I picked this article because it's a great example of Charter schools working, and because it happens to be in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana and New Orleans in particular are a prime example of what happens in a welfare state. They had (pre-Katrina) the worst schools in the nation, high dependency on government assistance, and high crime rates. I am not sure about the crime or welfare issues changing, but the schools at least have improved. 60% of the kids now go to Charter schools.

Isobel - posted on 07/26/2010

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One more instance of the douchiness of human beings ruining the perfect free market system...the theory just doesn't work in practice without strict regulation.

Now...if you told me that from now on schools would hold a lottery at the beginning of every year to find out who they would accept, I could conceive of the notion but then how pissed would you be that your kid lost the lottery and got stuck in the inner city school?

Isobel - posted on 07/26/2010

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Well...once America privatized prisons, the number of incarcerated exploded...it seems only reasonable to say that if you made education for profit, everybody would start graduating :)

I have a question about this voucher system, I assume that they would all be private schools, so would they still be allowed to discriminate about who was "allowed in" since every school has a finite number of spots, it seems to me that inner city kids would still end up getting shafted in the crappy schools that are owned and operated by the same slum-lords that own and run their apartment buildings.

Krista - posted on 07/26/2010

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No, I agree that the solution is not to keep throwing money at something that isn't working. I think where we disagree is whether or not there is any value in scrapping the public school system in the U.S. and going with a voucher system, or if there is value in scrapping the public school system and starting from scratch with a BETTER public school system.

Honestly, I don't even know if the most perfectly designed public school system would even get off the ground in the U.S. at this point -- there's too much antipathy there. So I think perhaps, that horse has left the barn, and maybe it's best to give the voucher system a try.

I just hope that you guys can find SOMETHING to fix your educational system, because those dropout rates are heartbreaking.

Kelly - posted on 07/26/2010

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Krista, I am not saying that a public school system won't work at all. It is proven fact over the last few decades that it isn't working in the US. That is my point.



Reality is no school is perfect. And believe me, I am not going to just yank my kid if she has a bad day at school or does poorly on one test. But you better believe that if there is an issue with an educator, or an administrator for that matter, parents DEMAND something happen. And in a private school or even charter school setting, there aren't big fat powerful teachers unions to protect bad teachers.



I do think vouchers would be a great thing to implement, unfortunately unions are VERY against them...... for obvious reasons. Put the money in the hands of parents and the unions don't have the power anymore. If vouchers don't happen, charter schools are another option that I think would improve our education system across all income levels. Parents don't pay tuition, but they have a CHOICE on where their kids go to school. And again, poor performing schools get the axe.



At this point, what do inner-city people have to lose? Their kids are failing, many are illiterate even if they do graduate, and are in no way "set up" for the real world. If those parents either had a voucher to send their kids to a private school, or had the option of a charter school, it would greatly increase their chances of stopping the cycle so many people are stuck in.



All I am saying is the answer is not to continue to throw money at public schools that do absolutely nothing for the students they are supposed to be educating. Found an interesting article out of Detroit, arguably the WORST schools in the country.........



http://www.mackinac.org/11545

Krista - posted on 07/26/2010

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I still think that just because YOUR public school system is broken, that doesn't mean that a public school system CANNOT work. It can, if it's done correctly. That's why I brought up my own country as an example.

And answer me this: how is a school going to pull up its proverbial socks and meet those higher standards if students (and hence, tuition money) are leaving? It just seems like a vicious circle to me -- a school slips a bit, for some reason or another. Parents start yanking their kids out. So next year, the school has a smaller budget. Music and art get cut. More parents yank their kids out. Smaller budget ensues. More programs get cut. And next thing you know, you have a school that has closed its doors, because it never really had a chance in hell to turn around and fix its problems.

And this whole aspect of competition would work...theoretically. But look at inner-city schools. You think those parents wouldn't LOVE to send their kids to a better school, resulting in those crap schools closing their doors? So why aren't they?

My entire beef with the "competition-solves-everything" argument is that it makes a huge assumption that the consumer has the means and the ability to go elsewhere. And that isn't always the case.

Jenny - posted on 07/26/2010

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The more I read on the voucher idea, the more Ilike it. While I do like the idea of public school, I know my daughter is not getting the best education out of the deal. I don't like education being a for profit busines though. I beleive it is our duty to our citizens to educate them right up to post-secondary.



Maybe if districts were changed to have a variety of teaching styles the parents could choose from. We have some schools here that offer French immersion, we could it in a similar fashion. Although I was gonig to put my daughter in French Immersion but the nearest school was too far so maybe that's not feasible over an entire city. I dunno, just tossing ideas out there.

Krista - posted on 07/26/2010

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Kelly, I think you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Perhaps your CURRENT model of public education does not work. But to say that the public education system serves no purpose and should be scrapped is more than a little hasty.

I mean, look how well public education is working here.

So the "bureaucratic model" of public education is not faulty, in and of itself. It just needs to be done much differently than the way it's been done in the past, because obviously, something is not working.

Krista - posted on 07/26/2010

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The inevitable—and intended—result is a more and more openly class-based education system, in which working-class youth receive substandard schooling.



Shameful. Absolutely shameful. Obviously, well-heeled private schools are going to have more amenities and a broader variety of elective courses, but the BASICS of education should be equal across the board. Punishing schools for underperforming by taking away their funding does NOT encourage them to do better -- all it does is create a downward spiral, and the kids are paying the price.



What's interesting is that in Canada, the trend is reversed. All of the city kids are staying in school. The ones who drop out are the rural kids.



Outside of Canada's largest communities, the drop-out rate in the 2004-2005 school year was 16.4%, almost double the rate (9.2%) within Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations (CMA/CA) (Table 3). In both small towns and more isolated rural areas, the drop-out rate was comparatively high.

On average over the last four years, dropping out has been especially high in rural and small-town Alberta and Quebec. In both those areas, about one in five 20-24-year-olds had not completed high school and was no longer going to school. Drop-out rates were also high in rural and small-town Manitoba.




I think that part of that can be explained by the big oil boom out west, which was at its height around then, if I recall correctly. For awhile, if you could swing a hammer, you could get a job out in Fort McMurray making at least $40K a year. So I can see how a lot of rural boys, without much in the way of local job prospects, would have leaped at the chance.

Jenny - posted on 07/26/2010

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It's hard. I'm a high school dropout. I could no longer live with my mother and moved out at age 16. I started working and had to support myself so I couldn't focus on finishing school. I tried distance education but I need to have an instructor to get my work done. So I challenged the exams of the courses I needed instead and got my GED. I took my first year of college at 23 with a new baby and working PT. I stopped at year 1 as it gave me the skills I needed to get in the workforce and learn by doing which is my preferred method. I realise that's not effective for all careers such as doctors lol but it's worked for me. I was lucky to have a partner making a decent wage so I was able to work PT though. If I was on my own I shudder at how different my life would have turned out.



So to paraphrase, you need a strong support system or you're screwed.

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