Nonetheless, 1 out of every 4 American teens drop out of high school before finishing. That is the finding of a report released by the Alliance for Excellent Education, America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University on March 19.
The report is titled Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic and the portion published today is the 2012 update.
Main findings were:
a) The national graduation rate increased by 3.5 percentage points between 2001 and 2009 from 72 percent to 75.5 percent in 2009.
b) The South and the suburbs saw the largest declines in the number of “dropout factory” schools with 410 and 171, respectively, between 2002 and 2009.
c) Contrary to 2008-09, progress in towns and rural areas stalled in 2009-2010.
d) Despite, and probably because of, all the upheaval in the state public schools under the Christie administration, New Jersey is among the states that lost ground.
The WP writes: “One of the success stories highlighted in the report is Washington County, Md., which increased its high school graduation rate from 78 percent in 2000 to 92 percent in 2010.
Recognizing that it faced a problem, Washington County devised a strategy in 2001 to turn around its sagging graduation rates. Teachers adept at working with struggling students were assigned to those most at risk of dropping out. Intervention specialists were hired. Support was offered to at-risk students before, during and after school. Summer classes and evening high school were expanded to help students complete graduation requirements.Designated staff at a special learning center focused on teen parents.”
Some of the above are among the steps I propose, notably the lengthening of in-school time. One point that I do not find – although it is probably somewhere in the report – is the issue of when we start with the enhanced program. I gather from the report that the expanded school year is only used where the lagging students are detected. Stressing on the fact that I am not an educator, I am fairly sure that the fate of a student is sealed as early as 3rd or 4th grade if a deficit in knowledge begins to build up with respect to class level. Such deficit accumulates and prevents further progress particularly in subjects where advance builds upon previous lessons.
Mathematics is possibly the best example of the above.
The part of working with the parents appears fundamental although it is not something that I had identified. At the very least, parents must send their children to school regularly. Absenteeism is certainly a factor in falling behind. Addressing cases where students are in danger of falling behind on an individual basis also seems to make a great deal of sense.
I have no doubt that we must start as early as 1st grade to see the benefits at the end of high school. But then there must be, as I have said before, a point where career paths separate. Not everyone is college material and there are great opportunities in non-college fields.
All developed and most if not all developing economies have such dual approach to education. We had it and seemed to abandon it as manufacturing moved overseas. It is time to undo the damage.
It is clear to me that one of the main factors in governor Christie’s drive against teacher tenure is motivated by revenge for the attacks the NJEA launched against him during the gubernatorial campaign of 2009. The problem with Christie’s agenda is that it robs a great deal of time and resources from the measures that really work. The governor and his accomplices in the education reform business have the potential to do a great deal of harm to an entire generation of children.