Big-city schools struggle with graduation rates

<p>Big-city schools struggle with graduation rates
By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY</p>

<p>TABLE:Graduation</a> rates for 50 largest districts in U.S. <-- A MUST see!!
WASHINGTON — Students in a handful of big-city school districts have a less than 50-50 chance of graduating from high school with their peers, and a few cities graduate far fewer than half each spring, according to research released on Tuesday.</p>

<p>Fourteen urban school districts have on-time graduation rates lower than 50%; they include Detroit, Baltimore, New York, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas, Denver and Houston.</p>

<p>The findings present a bleak picture and are sure to generate controversy as lawmakers and others push to keep U.S. students competitive globally.</p>

<p>While the basic finding that the nation's overall graduation rate is about 70% is not new, the study suggests that graduation rates are much lower than previously reported in many states. It also could bring the dropout debate to the local level, because it allows anyone with Internet access to view with unprecedented detail data on the nation's 12,000 school districts.</p>

<p>Among the nation's 50 largest districts, the study finds, three graduate fewer than 40%: Detroit (21.7%), Baltimore (38.5%) and New York City (38.9%).</p>

<p>The advantage of the new study is that "you could apply it to any and all school districts in the country with the same validity — and the same problems," says Michael Casserly of The Council of the Great City Schools, an advocacy group for large urban districts.</p>

<p>He says it's still unclear whether researcher Christopher Swanson overstates the problem. Swanson's analysis, strictly speaking, is not a calculation of dropout rates but of graduation rates; it estimates the probability that a student in ninth grade will complete high school on time and with a regular diploma.</p>

<p>Adding to the debate: The study is sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which promotes its own brand of high school reform. Last year, Bill Gates called U.S. high schools "obsolete."</p>

<p>The study, which uses 2002 and 2003 data, the most current available, finds that public schools graduate 69.6% of an estimated 4 million eligible students each spring, meaning about 1.2 million students likely won't graduate this year. That means about 7,000 students drop out per school day, Swanson says.</p>

<p>Researcher Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute says Swanson's figures "seriously understate graduation rates, especially for minorities." They say that just 52% of blacks graduate, and 57% of Hispanics. </p>

<p>Mishel says by comparing the number of graduates with the number of ninth-graders, Swanson exaggerates the effects of the "ninth-grade bulge," in which many ninth-graders are held back a year before tackling more advanced work and, often, state-mandated exit exams. Mishel's most recent research puts the overall U.S. graduation rate at 82%.</p>

<p>And there are researchers who think these results are significantly understated. This was the subject of a front page Washington Post article about a month ago. And it is hard for me to reject those in the understatement camp - they compare those in 9th grade to what's left in 12th, and find the loss to be staggering. In any event, we reaped what we sowed when when ceased to stimatize out of wedlock births. Sound coarse? Perhaps. But no surer path to misery than single parenthood (for most), and the emotional and spritual toll on having a vast number of fathers being nothing more than absent sperm donors is astounding.</p>

<p>"In any event, we reaped what we sowed when when ceased to stimatize out of wedlock births. Sound coarse?"</p>

<p>Actually, we reaped what we sowed when we encouraged school districts to force students unlikely to pass exit exams without significant help to leave before graduation. Cheaper than providing the help needed, and results in larger proportions of folks (a-hem) passing the exams.</p>

<p>Teenage pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births among teens are both at 25-year lows. Chalk that one up to the effectiveness of sex education programs in schools.</p>

<p>"Chalk that one up to the effectiveness of sex education programs in schools."</p>

<p>Or the reality of AIDS.</p>

<p>I don't think that HIV contracted as a teen is a significant cause of teenage deaths or drop out rates. </p>

<p>There is a factor to be considered: mobility. There is a lot of moving around between 9th and 12th grades, especially in inner-cities, so using 9th grade enrolment figures and subtracting from them 12th grade graduation rates may not be the most accurate means of judging how many students drop out. This is on top of 9th or 10th grade retention rates.
I'd like to know more about how the rates were calculated before making a judgment.</p>

<p>Here's another fairly recent article (March 2006) on high drop out rates. The main reason cited in this article: boredom.</p>

<p><a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>"Now, a new survey, released Thursday, suggests that the problem, while deep, can be fixed. Most students don't drop out because they can't do the work. Nearly 90 percent had passing grades when they left school, according to the survey of dropouts by Civic Enterprises. Their major reason for opting out? The classes were too boring."</p>

<p>There are two separate things going on here: (1) A real social problem with educating kids, especially urban minorities, which people want to dramatize by citing low graduation rates as a preface to proposing various solutions, and (2) an inside-pool debate among researchers and education bureaucrats about how to measure graduation rates. Every school district does it differently, and the data they use are rarely transparent. </p>

<p>There are several competing studies out there right now with different methodologies for correcting for the 9th grade "bulge" (and everyone does attempt to correct for that, one way or another). But the differences are fairly minor. Mishel has an overall graduation rate of 80% and close to 60% for big urban districts; other studies tend to be 7-10% lower on both. There is really inadequate research on WHY kids don't graduate (because that research is a lot harder to do). The boredom/school-is-useless factor doubtless accounts for the lion's share of drop outs, but things like prison, injury/sickness/death, physical mobility, and closing off college to illegal immigrants are probably also significant factors (with very different policy implications).</p>

<p>I would agree with the boring
I dropped out of high school- my classes at the traditional school weren't engaging, weren't challenging & I didn't get a sense that they were laying a foundation for anything.
I tried an alternative school for a time, but after my father died, I didn't have anyone who was remotely interested in my education and I dropped out.
I did take my GED ( without studying or classes) and have taken community college classes.
I also have learning disabilties that weren't identified in school, which interfere with attention, and processessing.
I see some schools as being really disconnected to the kids.
When my youngest was in elementary/middle school, she loved science, but it was taught at a low level, without much lab type activity, so in elementary and middle school she only received a B,( because there was rampant grade inflation).
In high school, she has been fortunate enough to attend an inner city school with very strong teachers. She received an A in her biology course in 9th grade, and a B in her college equivalent Marine science class in 10th grade. Engaging classes will produce better results.
( Their graduation rate is also higher than the Seattle average)</p>

<p>I think another reason why kids drop out is that there are a lot of undiagnosed learning challenges, that may not become a big problem until middle or high school.
If you haven't learned what your peers are learning, ( and my daughter was passed ahead in all her classes despite having huge gaps in some), then it is pretty impossible for you to move ahead. </p>

<p>Parents may feel that you aren't trying hard enough, or they don't want you to use your learning difficulties as a "crutch" .</p>

<p>As a diploma becomes based on passing a test and instruction centers around the test, students who need hands on learning to understand the information miss out</p>

<p>another reason teh public school districts may have poor graduation rates
( from a response I sent regarding a local column)
* this is what I posted after I was told- that not all the kids would be able to take a summer class*

The first thing they need to do is serve the students who are asking for help.</p>

<p>My daughter- despite being bright enough be takingin 10th grade, 5 academic classes plus art, including Ap Euro history and Marine Science (the equiv of a college course), recieved a 1 on the math portion of WASL. This was not because she isn't working hard, but because she hasn't had what was on the test.</p>

<p>Elementary teachers do not go into teaching because they are good at math. She had the misfortune of having several weak teachers ( especially in mathematics) in a row in elementary school, this put her behind for middle school, despite our finally paying for outside tutoring, and in high school she is almost caught up to grade level.</p>

<p>To do so, she is taking a summer school course at Franklin.
Unfortunately, I have been told that at Franklin alone 500 students are on the wait list for summer school. SHe managed to get in, only because I read the school website everyday & was very diligent about getting her forms in as soon as they accepted them, and then double checking.</p>

<p>However the way the information is gotten out,it would have been really easy for me to have missed it altogether or to assume that the school would be more proactive about notifying students who need to be registered.</p>

<p>The fact that 500 students are now on the wait list, indicates that at least before school got out, they realized they needed summer school.
To not have classes for them, even though the district had to have known of the need, is negligence.
These kids are willing to attend school in the summer so they can get caught up to grade level, with a better chance of graduating- shouldn't we as adults insure that they have the tools to do so-


<p>THis is what I posted after- despite being registered for the class & being there when required for the two days that it has been in session so far- my daughter and her classmates have been told that the class has been canceled.


<p>I am so ( the PI apparently objects to the language I used here so let your imagination run free)</p>

<p>I posted above about summer school and the failure of the district to address the numbers of students who need summer school.</p>

<p>IT has just gotten worse for our family.
Please note that my daughter is not behind in math because she failed a class.
Actually she is behind because her middle school instruction did not help her to progress, and when she reached high school and was tested for placement- she entered a below grade math class.
She has been working very hard & is almost caught up to grade level- but she needed this one INT math class this summer, so she can continue on in the fall with grade level math, and take chemistry which requires completion of 10th gd math.
She has been registered for the math class months ago- the district knew who needed this class.
She received a letter from teh district stating she was enrolled in the class.
She went yesterday- " it was orientation"- she stayed an hour and was released.
Yet today, she and lots of other students who were registered for math, were told their class was canceled.
What are they supposed to do?
Didn't the district know months ago how many teachers they needed?
Didn't those teachers have to be trained/oriented to a summer semester program?
Because the class is only 1 month- each day is critical.
Missing one day of class is like missing three days.
So far, my daughter and her classmates have missed the equivalent of 6 days, through no fault of their own.
I think it is time the Seattle school district had a little competition, because a forced constituency, isnt enough to get them to do their jobs.
Wheres the beef?