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.