5 Dollars

My life as an at-home momma of 3 amazing kids...it's kind of like shoveling snow in a blizzard.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Nation-wide drop-out rates and Indiana's pitiful rankings

Indiana's graduation rate is ranked as 23rd nationally with only 73 percent of Indiana's high school students graduating on time with their classmates. The graduation rates are even more dismal when you look at the numbers based on ethnicity. Only about four in 10 black and Hispanic boys in Indiana graduate from high school on time.

A state-by-state analysis of 2002-03 federal education data, paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, underscored the findings of earlier studies, which put Indiana's graduation rate between 69 and 73 percent. (State officials have now acknowledged that their previously reported 90 percent graduation rate was inflated. A more accurate figure is expected for the class of 2006 this fall.) The national average is about a 69 percent graduation rate.

The study also pinpointed a wide range in graduation rates for the nation's 50 biggest school districts. Indianapolis Public Schools, Indiana's largest district, wasn't big enough to make that list. Regardless, an estimated 39 percent graduation rate ranks IPS below all but three of the nation's largest school districts.

While Indiana's pattern may seem to match national trends, honestly, it's still pitiful. IPS should be embarassed by it's 39 percent graduation rate. If we were handing out letter grades based on these graduation rates, IPS would be failing and the State of Indiana would barely be coming in at a C average. How can this be acceptable? Simply put, it's not. Somewhere, somehow the education system in Indiana is failing a large number of our children.

Back in April, Time magazine published an article on our Nation of Dropouts. Shelbyville High School, right here in Indiana, is mentioned in the Time story. The article states, "Of the 315 Shelbyville students who showed up for the first day of high school four years ago, only 215 are expected to graduate. The 100 others have simply melted away, dropping out in a slow, steady bleed that has left the town wondering how it could have let down so many of its kids."

The No Child Left Behind Act simply isn't working. Time reports that the dropout rates have remained virtually unchanged "at approximately 30% through two decades of intense educational reform, and the magnitude of the problem has been consistently, and often willfully, ignored."

When we allow so many children to fail at school and the dropout rate to reach such an astonishing level, what are we setting them up for as adults? Is this likely to lead to a lifetime of failure for these students? Some worry that this dropout trend is creating a permanent underclass.

Dropouts in today's world are discovering that it is difficult to find even a low-income job since so many of these positions have moved overseas or been filled by immigrants. This is the era of a knowledge-based economy and advanced manufacturing where most employeers want to see at least a high school diploma in an employee's hand before they will let them advance. Being computer literate has most certainly become essential. Kids who stick it out and earn their diplomas demonstrate to potential employers that they have the discipline to commit themselves to something and achieve it.

The Time article makes the following comparison: "Dropping out of high school today is to your societal health what smoking is to your physical health, an indicator of a host of poor outcomes to follow, from low lifetime earnings to high incarceration rates to a high likelihood that your children will drop out of high school and start the cycle anew." (It appears that we're seeing this trend already as, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, kids from the lowest income quarter are more than six times as likely to drop out of high school as kids from the highest.)

Indiana legislators are trying to find ways to remedy the high drop-out rates. Indiana House Bill 1347 was signed by the Governor on Friday, March 24, 2006. Students who drop out before age 18 could now have their driver's license suspended or their work permit revoked unless their decision was first approved by a school or judge.

Can these students be encouraged to stay in school and to succeed? Perhaps the most surprising finding of the Gates survey is just how few dropouts actually reported being overwhelmed academically. Amazingly, 88% said they had passing grades in high school. When asked why they had dropped out, more respondents named boredom than struggles with course work!

How can teachers spark a flame in these students to make them want to learn and keep them interested? I can't help but wonder if these comments are a direct result of NCLB and the intense focus our schools now put on preparing for and passing standardized tests. What can be more boring than spending so much time focusing on one test, stressing about scores and then filling in the little circles? I think another issue that may play into the boredom is the amount of reviewing that seems to go on in many schools. So much time is spent at the beginning of the year reviewing what was forgotten over the summer. And then more time is spent reviewing for the ISTEP. I do think that the year-round calendar some schools have adopted seems to cut down on the amount of review time needed each year and also helps to avoid student burn out.

Are there other options for these students who are dropping out of traditional high school programs? What about vocational schools, night school, correspondence courses, online programs, or homeschooling? What about programs that would allow students to balance part-time work and school? Can we find ways to keep them learning, even if it isn't within the traditional model of a high school education?

What about those students who drop-out because they are truely struggling? What about those who start life at the bottom of our society without privilege, decent health care, adequate housing or good nutrition?

Would throwing more money at the problem help? Marcus Winters, a senior research associate at the Manhattan Institute, disagrees. "Spending more money just has not worked," he says. "We've doubled the amount we spend per pupil since the '70s, and the problem hasn't budged."

The price of a loaf of bread has more than doubled since 1970. In 1970 a loaf of bread cost, on average, about 30 cents. In 2000 a loaf of bread cost approximately $1.30. Just like everything else, the cost of a well-rounded education is more expensive now than it was over 30 years ago. If we've only doubled the amount of money we spend on education in the past 35 years or so, I'm guessing that odds are we haven't invested enough in the educational system. I think we already know that teachers are underpaid. In 1970-71, public school teachers averaged $9,729. The average beginning teacher salary in the 2003-04 school year was $31,704.

Our children are our future. Our schools need money. Our teachers need better pay. Nation-wide, schools are already struggling to provide quality services to increased numbers of disadvantaged students and students with special needs, while also implementing accountability and testing mandates. And in his 2007 National Budget, Bush is cutting funds.

According to a press release from NEA:

Bush's budget proposal does away with 42 education programs. These include career and technical education, school counseling, Safe and Drug-Free Schools, education technology grants and dropout prevention. Also on the chopping block are GEAR-UP, TRIO Talent Search, and Upward Bound, programs that have helped generations of disadvantaged students prepare for and attend college.

The President’s proposal shortchanges No Child Left Behind by $15 billion, putting more pressure on schools already struggling to meet the one-size-fits-all requirements of the law.

The budget proposal also drains $36 billion from Medicare over the next five years and at least $13.8 billion in cuts to Medicaid. Millions of Americans rely on these programs to pay for their basic health care needs - particularly America 's elders, low-income and working families and their children, and individuals with disabilities.

February 17, 2006 NEA Insider

Find out what this budget means to Indiana.

Honestly, if we want to see the graduation rates improve, I think we need to find more ways to support our schools. We need to advocate for more funding for our schools as well as higher salaries and continuting education courses for our teachers. We must find ways to get all parents more involved in the classroom and look for new ways to motivate students. All children deserve a chance at a high school diploma and a future that holds promise. When we allow this many students to drop out before graduation then we are leaving way too many children behind.

By gender:
Boys in Indiana: 68.8 percent
Boys nationwide: 65.2 percent
Girls in Indiana: 75.4 percent
Girls nationwide: 72.7 percent
By race and ethnicity:
American Indian/Alaska Native: in Indiana: 30.2 percent
American Indian/Alaska Native: nationwide: 47.4 percent
Hispanic in Indiana: 52.3 percent
Hispanic nationwide: 55.6 percent
Black in Indiana: 48.5 percent
Black nationwide: 51.6 percent
White in Indiana: 75.4 percent
White nationwide: 76.2 percent


  • At 7:03 PM, June 26, 2006 , Blogger Granny said...

    I'm impressed. I've been screaming about NCLB for years and had educators and administrators screaming right along with me.

    In education to cutting educational funds, Bush and Congress have been trying for years to cut two programs which attempt to get kids off to a decent start nutritionally and educationally. WIC and Head Start.

    Shame on him and shame on Congress.

    I'll go rant on my own blog now. I'd like to link to this if you have no objection.

    Not granny, the other blog.

  • At 8:46 PM, June 26, 2006 , Blogger Carissa said...

    Linking would be great! Thanks!

  • At 9:35 PM, June 26, 2006 , Blogger Granny said...

    I had to leave and didn't see the comment above. I'll get it on the "other blog" tonight.

    I was waiting for you since you had probably never visited isamericaburning and it's quite different from granny.



  • At 10:22 PM, June 26, 2006 , Blogger Granny said...

    Done - on both blogs. I clicked on granny by mistake and decided to leave it there as well.

  • At 10:42 PM, June 26, 2006 , Blogger Carissa said...

    cool...will come take a look!

  • At 6:43 PM, June 30, 2006 , Blogger JuBlue said...

    Great post. I think you're right on target with the point that we're putting too much emphasis on testing and not enough on inspiring. Also, parents MUST be deeply involved in their children's education, as you mentioned.

  • At 2:16 PM, January 16, 2010 , Blogger daniel said...

    The popular comment layout is common, so it is easily recognized when scanning to post a comment. If the comment section is in a different format, then I am going to spend more time trying to decipher what everything means.

    part time worker


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