Dropout Nation

High School Dropout (courtesy Time Magazine)Tonight’s CBS Evening News (with Katie Couric) featured a report on the dropout rate of large-city public schools.  The numbers sound depressing, but without reference to either global results or to completion of high school equivalency programs later in life, it is unclear what these results mean.  Many large cities graduate less than half the students who entered the 9th grade.  But as bad as this may look, the measures used to compute the dropout rate are inconsistent and, in some cases, so poorly known as to produce unreliable results.

The States – and various school districts – calculate dropout rates differently, not in any uniform manner.  The Detroit public school system soft-pedals their statistics claiming that their dropout numbers are skewed by students who moved away or simply died.  The Time Magazine report from the photograph above includes a number of creative ways that public school administrators inflate their own graduation rates to make their schools appear to be performing better than they really are.

What caught my attention tonight was Katie’s vivid description of the rate at which dropping out is occurring in this country:  1.2 million children a year, or 7,000 a day.  “That’s one every 26 seconds” she said.

Um, last time I checked, 1.2 million dropouts divided by 365 days was not 7,000 but about 3,300, which does work out to be around 1 dropout every 26 seconds.  Maybe the person working the television graphics didn’t do so well in high school math.  Or maybe I didn’t see the numbers correctly.  Sure looked like 7,000 to me, though.

The 6:51 PM comment by Demslie regarding this article made me chuckle.  It’s nice to learn exactly where to point the finger for this education fiasco.

By the way, this article claims that the Buffalo, New York public school system has a dropout rate of only 9.5% .  Sure.


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