Thursday, July 17, 2008

California's High School Dropout Rate: 24%

Back from break...

Did anyone see the article in today's Chronicle reporting on California's staggering high school dropout rate?

Here are some highlights:

"Nearly 1 in 4 California students will drop out during high school, state educators said Wednesday, basing their prediction on what they said is the most accurate information about student attendance they've ever collected."

The new dropout rate is far higher than the 13 percent educators had earlier estimated using less-sophisticated counting methods they had relied on for years.

"Bay Area dropout rates vary widely by school district, but three have rates far higher than the 24 percent state average: Oakland Unified (37 percent), West Contra Costa Unified (40 percent), and Vallejo City Unified (42 percent)."

"In San Francisco, 1,052 high school students quit last year. Based on that, researchers believe that 21 percent of entering freshmen will quit before earning a diploma."

"California's dropouts cost the state $50 billion per year, said incoming state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat who quoted studies showing that over their lifetimes those who quit are more likely to be unemployed, turn to crime, need state-funded medical care, get welfare and pay no taxes."

Be sure to check out the article, which reports on the dropout rate for specific SF high schools: Leadership High is 46 percent, Abraham Lincoln High is 15 percent, School of the Arts is 11 percent, and Lowell is 1 percent.

What do you think?

30 comments:

  1. Leadership, a charter school, has the highest dropout rate? What's up with that?

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  2. It takes the kids that everyone else gives up on, the toughest "cases" and tries its best. But go ahead and do more charter bashing, since that is what this blog is all about.

    Only 1 out of 4 African American students in SFUSD score at proficient or above in Math and English language tests. Those abysmal numbers don't stop caroline and others from spewing out the propaganda that SFUSD is the "highest performing urban district in California" ... OK, maybe that is true, but if 1 out of 4 is "highest performing", that is incredibly SAD and we're in a heap of trouble, don'cha think?

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  3. This is why it is so unfortunate that our broken educational system focuses only on "college bound" students and does nothing for those who may tremendously benefit from apprenticing programs (as in Germany's dual system) and/or vocational training. Our system tries to mainstream all students into a "one size fits all" mold, and we operate under the false assumption that all of our children must go to college. The reality is that college is not for everyone, and sometimes high school is not for everyone. In our efforts to cater to the concept of advanced education for all, we have created an educational culture of mediocrity and disinterest. That's just my $.02.

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  4. How true! College really isn't for everyone. Some people are just better at working with their hands, and there is plenty of work for them to do if they have the training to do it. Jobs for the college educated may all be sent offshore, but there will always be a need for carpenters, plumbers, electricians, police, and firefighters right here in the good ol' USA. Those jobs aren't going offshore, but will there be anyone to fill them if all of the high school students are on the college track?

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  5. The problem with this "college isn't or everyone" talk is that it assumes that the 3 out of 4 African American students who are not scoring Proficient or above should automatically be sent to vocational schools. This is a ridiculous proposition. If anyone suggested that 3 out of 4 white or Asian student just weren't cut out for college, there would be a huge backlash.

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  6. I agree Elizabeth ...
    it is sort of repugnant "we will always need janitors" they may as well say. Yuck.
    I think we shouldn't just give up on kids, but instead, find better and different ways of teaching them, because OBVIOUSLY what they are doing now IS NOT WORKING.

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  7. I blogged about dropouts on examiner.com, pasted below:

    http://tinyurl.com/6kw6uk

    Are more kids dropping out of school these days?

    As anyone who follows education news knows, the California Department of Education has come up with a new way to keep track of high school dropouts, an efficient new system replacing what seems to have been a hodgepodge of seat-of-the-pants methods and on-the-fly guesswork.

    But even the world’s most efficient system can’t give us the full picture. The Los Angeles Times article reporting the new process included a line that made me nod my head sadly:

    What is inescapable, ultimately, is that the effort to statistically capture the complications of teen life does not lend itself to the simple analysis that a dropout rate suggests.

    And if you weren’t paying close attention, it would be easy to be misled into believing that the dropout rate has risen over the years, or taken a jump recently. But of course that isn’t true in the big picture.

    It used to be the norm for many working-class kids and almost all poor kids to drop out of high school -- if they started high school at all. Finishing high school was a luxury for the privileged.

    According to Nicholas Lemann’s book “The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy,” a history of the SAT and higher education in this country, the high school graduation rate only hit 50 percent around World War II.

    My own grandmother, born in 1899 in Cumberland, Md., and raised in various spots in the Appalachians along the B&O Railroad line, was emblematic. She quit school after eighth grade to go to work in a glove factory in Columbus, Ohio. This was the norm for her culture, fully in accordance with her family’s expectations. It would have been an act of defiance and disloyalty for her to try to insist on continuing on to high school, let alone attempting to graduate – I’m sure it would have been futile for her even to try.

    (I have mentioned that to people who have chimed in with the view that eighth grade was far more advanced than it is now. They’re wrong. While Grandma – who worked on auto assembly lines for much of her adult life and later became a hairdresser – was quite literate and loved to write letters, she also totally believed that men have one fewer rib on one side than women do, for example.)

    There are still many families and many communities with the same expectation for their kids my great-grandparents had for Grandma: Your earning power is far more valuable than a piece of paper saying you finished high school. And of course there are families and communities struggling with many deeper issues too.

    Today’s Chronicle story on the dropout issue quotes a community worker who gives a good view of the problem: “A lot of kids are dealing with issues far beyond their control,” says Andre Aikins of San Francisco’s Omega Boys Club. But I have to disagree with Aikins’ implication that it’s the responsibility of -- or within the realm of possibility for – educators to remedy the situation. Educators’ role is to teach our children academics. The entire community – the entire society – must share responsibility to work to help low-income, at-risk students and families engage and focus in school. Here’s the section quoting Aikins.


    At the Omega Boys Club in San Francisco, which has worked with school districts for years and earned a reputation for keeping boys and girls from dropping out and getting them into college, operations manager Andre Aikins says schools need to go beyond academics.

    "A lot of kids are dealing with issues far beyond their control - Mom's on drugs, Pop's in the penitentiary, and now the grandparents are on drugs," he said. "A lot of kids have very little parenting going on."
    Youngsters come to school like a full balloon, he said: They're so filled with troubles that "it's hard to add anything else, or they'll burst."

    Schools are poorly equipped to help students with their emotional troubles, he said. But if they could find a way to do it, he said, the dropout rate would decline. San Francisco's dropout rate is 21 percent, according to the new state estimate.

    "They have to change the mind-set of students to value education," Aikins said. "Right now, the way the system is designed - how can I say it - the kids don't see the value and relevancy of what schools are in place to do for them."

    Meanwhile, everyone is poring over those dropout rate breakouts, school by school and district by district. They presumably fall in line with demographics – all the numbers show high dropout rates for African-American and Latino students. But as the Los Angeles Times line emphasizes, there are so many complexities that I’m not really convinced those numbers are clear indicators that one school is doing so much better than another.

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  8. Just had to point out about firefighters. Nobody gets hired without a college degree, it's one of the the most competitive jobs out there, 10,000 apply and few area accepted, they make about $100,000 per year and work two days per week and risk their lives to save our lives.

    You gotta be really really learned to do that job.

    My partner is a firefighter and an IVY LEAGUE grad and many of her co workers went to Stanford, Berkeley, Yale, Columbia, etc.

    So whoever wrote that a firefighter was a job that didn't require education, you need to get real.

    EVERY JOB you named, most any job requires a high school education, and this is what we are talking about. (I actually do agree that not all of us require a college education, but that's another subject.)

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  9. A 24% dropout rate is shameful.

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  10. Kids drop out because they don't find anything being taught at school to have any relevance to their lives or their futures. If they were on a path that would lead to a job, instead of to college, with the promise of a real job upon graduation, maybe they would stay in school.

    I find the assumption that students in a vocational program are automatically worth less than students on a college track to be very offensive. What exactly is wrong with a student learning a trade in high school, getting out and starting a decent paying job at 18, and finding himself earning $60,000 a year or more, at 22, when his college educated peers are graduating with a boatload of debt and no guarantee of a job? Does going to college automatically make anyone a better person?

    Full disclosure - I never went to college, started working right out of high school, and have never looked back.

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  11. I have (highly educated) Dutch friends who described the school system in the Netherlands to me. They said that students on the vocational track finish school -- with a respected, legitimate diploma -- at the end of the equivalent of our 10th grade. So that puts a whole 'nother slant on the notion of "dropouts" and international comparisons.

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  12. John Major was described in the US press as a "high school drop-out" when he was actually a perfectly legitimate "school leaver." I believe at the time he "left school" the age was 14, but now is 16. I don't know enough about their system to know if they get a diploma or not. At least in the past you could take O levels at 16 in whatever subjects you were good at, and A levels to qualify for university. Job applications asked for the "number of O levels." Only the most motivated students stay on for A levels.

    It's a completely different system than the US so very hard to compare.

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  13. 4:35 Made some very good points. I don't think college is the right choice for everyone and it's unfortunate that so many make value judgments around it. If our daughter decides to skip college and go straight into the workforce or travel abroad or follow her dream to become a musician that will be her decision at that point and we will do our best to honor it.
    We would insist that she finish high school, though.

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  14. I guess you learn something new every day. Who knew that Stanford, Yale, and Columbia all offered a major in firefighting? Oh ,wait - they don't! So I guess that expensive Ivy League education, which these days would run about $200,000 for 4 years, was kind of a waste, huh? I am 100% sure that a degree from an Ivy is NOT REQUIRED for a firefighting job, here or anywhere else.

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  15. "We would insist that she finish high school, though."

    Of course all of us feel that way, strongly.

    But the parents of teens I know who are not finishing high school (these are not low-income families but parents of teens who are troubled, extremely quirky etc.) turned out to have no power over it in the end.

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  16. ^ I supposed that may be true. I still think it's a shame. Pretty hard to get anywhere without a high school diploma... College is another matter entirely.

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  17. I don't know any parents in that situation who aren't in incredible anguish over it. (Though most of the kids get a GED at some point. And one I know is going to a prestigious music conservatory that admitted him by audition, with or without a high school diploma.)

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  18. From http://www.firecareerassist.com/html/firefighter_qualifications.htm

    Most Fire Departments require that you are at least 18 years of age by the closing date of the recruitment period. Required is a HSD or GED. Successful completion of Fire Science College course work, previous firefighting or EMS experience (full-time, part-time, or volunteer) is highly desirable in the interview process , but is usually not required for testing. Good Vision in both eyes is required. Laser surgery may be acceptable, provided the above-mentioned standards Are met. Must have the ability to distinguish Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) color codes for hazardous material (blue, red, yellow, and white), and have no depth perception or peripheral vision problems. Successful long-term soft contact lens wearers may not be subjected to the uncorrected criterion. These are NFPA 1582 requirements. You must be a US citizen or be eligible for employment in the United States. You must posses a Valid Driver's license and maintain a clean driving record.

    So, there you go! No degree required! Rule #1: Get facts, then post!

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  19. hello Charter Bashers:

    This letter was published in the Chronicle today ...
    correcting the Chronicle's misinformation about Leadership:

    Leadership's graduates

    Editor - The story "24 percent likely to drop out at state's high schools" (July 17) highlights our state's failure to serve students. This crisis deserves attention and alarm and is why small, personalized schools like San Francisco's Leadership High School exist.

    However, data reported for Leadership are wrong. The state disclaims that its system may have errors, yet your article mentions none of these disclaimers. We expect reporting to question how a high school noted for closing the achievement gap (by the Board of Education and the Consent Decree Court Monitor) suddenly shifts from one of the lowest district dropout rates to the highest.

    Leadership's purported dropout rate is based on egregious miscounts. The state reports one senior graduated in 2007 and 38 dropped out. In fact, 76 graduated, all matriculating at college. Fewer than five seniors even transferred out that year. We do not know or understand the source of the miscounts but will be working with the district and state to rectify them.

    We applaud The Chronicle for covering this critical story and raising awareness of the dropout crisis. Yet such reports demand accurate data to ensure we address the problem where it actually exists.

    ELIZABETH ROOD, Principal

    Leadership High School

    San Francisco

    - -

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  20. TFT -

    i believe the poster said:

    I am 100% sure that a degree from an Ivy is NOT REQUIRED for a firefighting job, here or anywhere else.

    that is an Ivy league college, not a HSD.

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  21. anon 7:26

    I was responding to this poster:

    Just had to point out about firefighters. Nobody gets hired without a college degree, it's one of the the most competitive jobs out there, 10,000 apply and few area accepted, they make about $100,000 per year and work two days per week and risk their lives to save our lives.

    You gotta be really really learned to do that job.

    My partner is a firefighter and an IVY LEAGUE grad and many of her co workers went to Stanford, Berkeley, Yale, Columbia, etc.

    So whoever wrote that a firefighter was a job that didn't require education, you need to get real.

    EVERY JOB you named, most any job requires a high school education, and this is what we are talking about. (I actually do agree that not all of us require a college education, but that's another subject.)


    But thanks.

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  22. I trust that CDE will correct its error about the dropout rate and that that Chronicle will follow suit (the error is the CDE's).

    Since this blog exists to inform readers about schools, I need to correct Leadership's principal here. This claim misleads readers into believing that Leadership is superior to other schools.

    "....our state's failure to serve students. This crisis deserves attention and alarm and is why small, personalized schools like San Francisco's Leadership High School exist..."

    That implication is not accurate. I'm reposting a comment from another discussion in response:

    There are various gauges of a school's success, and Leadership comes up mixed -- as do most schools. ... it's easy to find statistics that make one case or another and hurl them back and forth.

    The obvious statistics don't show Leadership outshining SFUSD's other high schools (it ranks 12th of SFUSD's 17 total general-ed high schools in API; its API for Latino students is slightly below SFUSD's overall API for Latino students; its API for low-income students is significantly below SFUSD's overall API for low-income students; its number of African-American students isn't large enough to have a disaggregated API).

    I'm not saying it's not working well with some students and I'm not saying it's not showing success by some measures. But it's not in a position for its leaders to bash public education and claim to be superior -- the facts don't bear that out. I didn't mean to get into a big debate about it here; I just felt I needed to respond to the unjustified slap at public schools and the implied claim to superiority that was included in the Leadership principal's letter. Public schools overall struggle with a number of challenges, which is WHY they can be said to fail to serve many students; Leadership struggles with the same challenges, and its results don't indicate that it is overcoming them any more successfully overall.

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  23. "... But it's not in a position for its leaders to bash public education and claim to be superior"

    Caroline: Where are you getting that from? I don't hear any "bashing" in the principal's tone, just defense of the school against reported inaccuracies.

    (BTW, by my asking Caroline to clarify her perception, I am not bashing her.)

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  24. TFT - your tone is so nasty... why participate here? you aren't looking for a kindergarten, right? it just seems like you are looking for a fight.

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  25. I guess my response didn't totally reflect the version that was posted here, did it?

    Leadership has put out two (if not more) different communications, and the one posted on other listserves is more strongly worded (in terms of criticizing public education and claiming Leadership exists to remedy the problems). I reposted here the commentary I'd written in response to the other Leadership letter, though this version just refers to "the state's failure to serve students."

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  26. @4:19 - I think TFT's name says it all. Perhaps if s/he is so frustrated s/he should go into another profession and quit venting his/her frustrations here.

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  27. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  28. The data are inaccurate about Leadership. The school has already written an article to the Chronicle and is correcting the data with the state.

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  29. wow everyone is so uptight here calm down TFT and come back later. in fact everyone can go do the same.

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