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Cross-posted at MotherTalkers.

As if the stigma of low test scores related to No Child Left Behind weren’t enough, John Hopkins University just released a list of 1,700 high schools nationwide that graduate no more than 60 percent of its students, according to a recent front-page story in the Oakland Tribune.

Three of the schools in that list were in Oakland and Emeryville -- two districts near my house in East Bay.

It's a nickname no principal could be proud of: "Dropout factory," a high school where no more than 60 percent of the students who start as freshmen make it to their senior year. That dubious distinction applies to more than one in 10 high schools across America…

There are about 1,700 regular or vocational high schools nationwide that fit that description, including two in Oakland, according to an analysis of Education Department data conducted by Johns Hopkins. That's 12 percent of all such schools, no more than a decade ago but no less, either.

While some of the missing students transferred, most dropped out, (John Hopkins researcher Bob) Balfanz said. The data tracked senior classes for three years in a row to make sure local events like plant closures weren't to blame for the low retention rates.

Balfanz found that most of the “dropout factories” are in large cities or rural areas in the South and Southwest with large minority populations. These students face challenges such as having to work as well as go to school, or they need social services.

Utah, which boasts fewer minorities than most states, also touts lower poverty rates and is the only state without a dropout factory. Florida and South Carolina have the highest percentages of such schools. About half the high schools in those states made Balfanz’s dropout list.

"Part of the problem we've had here is we live in a state that culturally and traditionally has not valued a high school education," said Jim Foster, a spokesman for South Carolina's Department of Education. He noted that South Carolina residents once could get good jobs in textile mills without a high school degree, but that those jobs are now much harder to come by.

The article went on to describe how No Child Left Behind, President Bush’s controversial education reform in the elementary schools, could be implemented to improve these high schools. Not only would it force the schools to keep track of its students and accurately document its dropout rate, the schools would be held accountable for minority test scores, which are set apart from white students’ scores.

Boy, am I grateful that I am not a teacher in one of these schools. South Carolina’s Foster hit the problem on the nose: It isn’t enough to teach and test these students. Somehow, we must emphasize education in the homes of African Americans and Latinos -- specifically, Latino and African American men. Statistically, they are least likely to graduate than any other demographic, including Latinas and African American women.

I can speak from experience that, culturally, Latinos emphasize work for men, which is why many don't finish high school much less enter college. In my family, the only people that have gone on to college have been women. The men end up in industrial or service industry jobs. Somehow we must reach them before they enter the classroom. Perhaps hand out information at the hospital? Give all new parents a parenting course? Either way, it won't be easy -- or cheap.

Originally posted to Elisa on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 08:23 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you for the diary Elise.. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SallyCat, oldjohnbrown, Newzie, TimCbrowne

    CNN had an interesting segment on this issue the other day.

    It is certainly a problem in the area I reside in.

  •  Step one is to teach children... (5+ / 0-)

    ...that an education is valuable in its own right, not because it can get a person a job...or a better job.

    Step two is to teach the young people how to be students.

    If one can get past those two boulders, there is no limit to the possibilities.  The problem is that someone somewhere has to care enough about our young to step up.  A lot of someones, actually.

  •  We need to encourage education... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    starting at the earliest grades. We need to get books to children that are starting with Spanish as their first language that help them become bi-lingual and more comfortable with reading.

    Boys are particularly susceptible to not liking reading, and boys of hispanic or black communities even more.

    Thanks for the diary!

    Never forget: Mother Nature bats last...and she is pissed.

    by SallyCat on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 08:53:58 AM PDT

  •  As a professor at a small local college (4+ / 0-)

    I can see the results already of programs like NCLB, and the great issue with them, in my view, is that they do indeed "teach the test", and help kids graduate, but they end up ill- prepared for anything other thant ests and high- school level academic and intellectual engagement. I think that standardized tests are valuable: they work as a good indicator of how students learn across a nationwide scale, but they're rapidly replacing real academic skills, especially in research areas and critical thinking.

    Somehow, we must emphasize education in the homes of African Americans and Latinos -- specifically, Latino and African American men. Statistically, they are least likely to graduate than any other demographic, including Latinas and African American women.

    A good point that can, in my own experience, be extended to every household in America that has a child or children. We don't engage kids enough outside of school, hoping instead that they'll get their "quota" in school. And they need to learn also how to be students, and how the responsibility of a student changes from grade to grade.
    Teaching tests doesn't do that, but sustained, engaged education will. At the rate things are going, a high- school diploma will only become more worthless than they already are...

    "This is an adventure"- Steve Zissou

    by TimCbrowne on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 09:03:52 AM PDT

  •  part of problem is families need the money (0+ / 0-)

    just the other day, teenager was told by parents to get her license to drive car because family needed her to help with bringing in money.

    parents are having tough time, even holding down several jobs each.

  •  Of course, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Remembering Jello

    a few years ago, instead of "dropout factories" being the horrible thing our schools are doing, we were hearing about how "social promotion" was the enemy.  Anyone see a connection?  We stop social promotion, so more kids flunk, then we are shocked, shocked, when more kids drop out....

    Too much trouble to actually try to help kids learn... much easier to just scapegoat particular schools with catchy slogans....

  •  Increasing the dropout rate -- (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Newzie, Dimetrodon

    is clearly a response to the pressure to make "Adequate Yearly Progress" under NCLB.  If the low-scoring students can be persuaded to drop out, the score averages increase, the schools make AYP, and people don't lose their jobs.  This dynamic was already established in the research record well before NCLB; see Michelle Fine's book Framing Dropouts.


    Now, if the legislatures think they can use NCLB to force the high schools to retain their low-scorers, they will create another weapon to be routinely used against teachers who are struggling with students who are already far behind grade-level work.


    As job stability in at-risk schools decreases, more good teachers leave.  Is that what we want?


    The list of schools is in the interactive map here.  Frankly, I'm amazed that some of the local schools around where I live didn't make the list.  Our schools are worse than Johns Hopkins is letting on.


    The comment from the professor at the small local college is quite apropos.  NCLB trains a nation of test-takers, incapable of doing much else involving critical thinking.


    Btw, teaching everyone to think critically will NOT give everyone better jobs.  Creating more, better jobs might do that, but more education won't.


    Education to adapt to the existing system of political economy is something the elite corporations should purchase, because only they know the exact job requirements for the jobs they will be employing people to perform.  On the other hand, education for democratically-informed citizenship, to critique and improve the existing system, should be a universal right.

    "Imagine all the people/ Sharing all the world" -- John Lennon

    by Cassiodorus on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 09:32:48 AM PDT

  •  Produces (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    a larger underclass to fight over low-wage jobs, keeping corporate expenses down.

    I don't think this is a failure-
    I think this was always part of the plan.

    Stranger than fiction? At this point,the truth is stranger than japanese cartoons...

    by Remembering Jello on Fri Nov 02, 2007 at 09:34:46 AM PDT

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