Monday, December 11, 2006

School drop-outs: do we share the problem with China?

In the Zhang Yimou movie "Not One Less" we watch a 13 year-old substitute teacher battle the drop-out rate so she can get earn more pay. While the rural, impoverished school in the Chinese movie may seem to have little to do with our world, be assured that the drop-out rate in Louisiana - in Caddo Parish - is quite high. And school administrators are being rewarded for fighting the tendency of poor students to stop attending classes.

In general, the US drop-out rate seems to be about %30. It is 50% for students who are born to ethnic monority groups.

Why do states not clearly state their drop-out figures? It is embarassing. And the numbers show that it is not an easy problem to solve.

Here's some background from a public policy site:

States fudging high school dropout rates

While President Bush and the nation's governors want to reform America's high schools -- which have slipped to 17th place among developed nations in graduation rates -- unreliable information on dropouts is threatening to undermine those efforts, said Kate Haycock, director of the Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that works to increase academic achievement in schools.

"We've got to end this rampant dishonesty about graduation rates if we are going to prepare students for the challenges of college, work and life," Haycock said. Education Trust receives some of its funding from the The Pew Charitable Trusts, which also funds

The report examines the 2002-2003 graduation-rate data reported by states to the federal government in January 2005. Three states -- Alabama, Louisiana and Massachusetts -- did not report any graduation rates. Officials in those states said they did not yet have data-collecting systems in place to calculate graduation rates.

The report found that most states exaggerated their graduation rates by ignoring students who dropped out of high school before their senior year. Nationally, states reported an average graduation rate of 83 percent, far higher than independent measures, which estimate that at least 30 percent of public high school students nationwide fail to graduate in four years.

The report commended only two states -- Alaska and Washington -- for reporting realistic graduation rates. Measuring the percent of freshman who finish high school in four years, Alaska and Washington reported gradation rates of 67 and 66 percent respectively.

Washington state Superintendent of Schools Terry Bergeson said parents and school officials were shocked to learn the severity of the state's dropout problem.