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Dropout Mania

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Wondering what this whole "dropout factory" thing is about? Me, too. Check out AP's interactive map here to see the national view and see where your state fits in. There's also district by district information if you click on the state map here.
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I'm blown away that this hasn't gotten more attention! Why not?

I was glad to hear from the John Hopkins Drop Out Project even though its rate is far from perfect. But it has at least three attributes. Firstly, it is open. By not hiding their methodology, Balfanz’ organization allows us to analyze what the graduation rate reveals and what it doesn’t.

Secondly, it is a welcome corrective to the states’ drop out rates, which may be the most flawed of all the bogus statistics to come out of NCLB. Our district always has a single-digit dropout rate which fluctuates wildly and suspiciously. But our graduation rate is consistently in the mid-40%, dropping as low as 39% and rising to 48% at times.

Thirdly, it suggests areas where schools are failing in a manner that facilitates reform. My business friends look at “market share” and so should we. Our district has such a deplorable graduation rate because parents have to constantly shop around the county, the state, and anywhere in the nation where they have relatives - knowing that if they can locate a school that is effective with one or more of their kids then they can send them off to live with a relative. I guess-timate that the majority of my students’ families have done so - often with the daughters going to the more effective schools in the suburbs while the sons end up back in the urban school.

Yes, many of those of those kids graduate, but I haven’t heard of huge numbers of poor Black kids graduating from the suburban schools in our area. A couple have come back to give me news of their graduation, and I know I’d be getting visits from more of former students if they were eventually graduating. After all, plenty of my kids come back when they get out of jail and set off to Job Corp.

Equally important, the graduation rate of urban districts is inflated by transfers in. In our district the in and out migration works out almost equally. And they represent a substantial proportion of kids who pass NCLB tests.

But when parents have to do that sort of shopping, shouldn’t society know?

Its my understanding that most researchers do not consider a GED as the equivalent of a high school diploma, although it tends to be more rigorous that the REAL WORLD graduation requirements of inner city schools. But I don’t know of any evidence that graduates from these new “Credit Recovery” programs have learned a blessed thing. Under NCLB we hook students up to online tutorials where they may earn dozens a credits in a few weeks. As my students say, their right click finger gets a great workout but its just a charade to improve NCLB numbers.

As with most data, people interpret the findings from their own perspective. If you don’t have large numbers of poor teens of color hanging out in your neighborhood during the school/work day, you’ll think that Hopkins numbers seem excessive. The same applies if you have known a child who actually learned from an online tutorial. On the other hand, several of my kids have been jailed in the last two weeks for serious, violent felonies so they won’t be counted has drop outs. And if you’ve had enough of those heart-felt conversations with kids and parents about trying to find a safe school, you will welcome Balfanz’ approach.

Lastly, I lastly the new report provides a corrective to the methodology of the Ed Trust, the Gates, and other supporters of NCLB. Those advocates of replicating “Best Practices” act as if a school with a 50% poverty rate is a “high poverty” school. They ASSUME that methods that work in relatively lower poverty schools can turn around hard core schools with high concentrations of generational poverty.

People who are not around the inner city do not understand how there could be such a gap between the overall poverty rate and the rate in public schools.

But the Hopkins report provided a valuable corrective showing that 46% of public school students are poor. It showed that 55% of Southern students are poor. In Oklahoma, our children’s poverty rate is 23%, but the public schools poverty rate is 47%, and 70% of our k-8th schools have a poverty rate that exceeds 50%

I welcome any research that provides a reality check and forces us to look at schools from the perspectives of students and parents.

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