Dropouts in America, 2010

For another day or so you can get free access to Education Week, which is normally gated beyond a subscription-only requirement. The reason for the freebie, presumably, is to entice people to review its  report, Diplomas Count 2010.

As the existence of remedial education classes at colleges across the country prove, having a diploma doesn’t guarantee competence at the college level. But not having one is, statistically speaking a setback.

So how are we doing?

The executive summary isn’t encouraging: The graduation rate for the class of 2007 (the latest year with comprehensive, national data) was under 70 percent, or 68.8. This means that 3 of ever 10 children who entered high school left without a diploma. Imagine if 3 in 10 airplanes never reached their destination!

There are significant racial gaps. Roughly three-quarters of white students graduate, while only half of Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans do. (That said, three-quarters is not terribly encouraging, either.)

The article data in action describes how various school districts use data systems to track student attendance and achievement. The goal is to get information that can be used to intervene in the lives of students at risk of dropping out. But here are two that caught my eye. In Cincinnati, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helped support a “small schools” initiative. The school system also implemented a school-choice [within the district, I think] program.

Rather than being assigned to the nearest high school, Cincinnati students choose from a list of schools based on their career interests.

The process, managed electronically, places about 90 percent of students in one of their top two choices.

Perhaps as a result of these two reforms, the graduation rate has risen from 51 percent in 2000 to 91 percent in 2009. Mary Ronan, the superintendent, said ““If you were assigned to the high school down the street and it didn’t offer things you were interested in, there was no hope to keep you in school.”

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