October 19, 2006

Dropout Crisis


Looks like Jay Greene was right. As reported in the Philly Inquirer, a new study on graduation rates in the Philly School system shows that:
Between 48 and 54 percent of the students who started ninth grade between 2000 and 2005 graduated in four years. The rates improved to between 61 and 63 percent after six years. The rest dropped out without earning diplomas.
So only about 62% of students in the Philly School system graduate within six years. Appalling.

It even seems that they are starting to take education research seriously. What took you so long? Why did it take until 2006 for us to have any idea how many kids were graduating from high school?
Drawing on the most comprehensive student data assembled here - or in any other large urban district - the report outlines in stark detail the scope of the district's dropout problem.

By tracking individual students over time and linking school records with data gathered by the University of Pennsylvania and from the courts and other city agencies, the research tells the district for the first time not only how many students are dropping out, but also who they are and how many others are on the verge.

So what's the leading cause of these dropouts?
Balfanz and Neild found that eighth graders who attend school less than 80 percent of the time and fail either English or math have a 75 percent probability of dropping out.
Gee, that's a shocker. Kids who aren't doing well in school, drop out.

Buried on page 34 of the report, we see how far behind these drop outs actually are when they drop out.

For students dropping out in ninth grade, 57.9% were reading at a fifth grade level or less and 20.4% were reading on a 6th-8th grade level based on the SAT-9 test. For tenth grade drop outs the stats are slightly less grim since the herd's already been culled: 49.5% were reading at a fifth grade level or less and 22.7% were reading on a 6th-8th grade level.

To put this in perspective, after nine to ten years in school between about 50%-58% of the drop outs were reading an an elementary school level. Another 20%-23% were reading on a middle school level. I'm thinking its difficult to do high school level work when you can barely read.

Females are doing better than males. And, hispanics males are doing the worst.

Female students graduate on time at higher rates, and the gender gap was nearly 15 percentage points between 2000 and 2003.

Latino males have the lowest on-time graduation rate of any group in the city: 29.3 percent to 38.2 percent.

I'm dying to see how this study is going to get spun.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

One powerful motivator is to hold those students not reasonably close to grade level in English and Math OUT of high school. Send them to a HS "prep" school. Most of them will be students who need SERIOUS help in academics. A combination of computer coaching and instruction, coupled with intense tutoring, has made a significant difference in SOME of the students, where it has been tried.

Let's face it, SOME of those students will still not be ready for HS. Don't just send them, then act surprised when they fail. Those kids end up being troublemakers, class cutters (we sometimes say they have a major in "hall-walking"), and behavior problems.

Let me be clear.

It isn't that they CAN'T succeed. It's that they are not prepared to succeed at this time. Some, even with academic intervention, will not become ready for HS. Some have issues (work, pregnancy, chemical dependencies, etc.) that make it not possible for them to manage HS at this time.

For those kids, let's have an alternative. One that prepares them for work. Don't just force them into a seat, then blame the teacher when they can't manage to pass.

Anonymous said...

Kids aren't doing well in school because of their socioeconomic status, Ken -- don't you know that? These kids don't have enriching home environments, where the parents emphasize academic success, let alone the means to get these kids the tutoring they need that is a result of their SES, Ken. Some of these kids have terrible diets, and some have undiagnosed/treated ear infections -- don't you read Kuhn and Bracey? According to them, nothing can be done until we eliminate poverty.

If kids aren't ready for school when they first enter school (mom and dad have taught Johnny to read and write the alphabet and letter sounds, read to Johnny and watched Sesame Street with Johnny, and talked to Johnny about all sorts of interesting things to broaden Johnny's horizons and knowledge bank -- essentially kept Johnny's IQ up to par), they will have an uphill battle ever succeeding in school.

You sound like you believe it is the job of public education to educate these kids, and provide the remediation they now require due to the effects of the SES -- are you crazy?

Public schools should not be responsible to do all the teaching and educating, Ken. And public education should not be held responsible for the education of kids either.

Sincerely,

Jessica, a parent who takes full responsibility for their child's academic success or failure and who believes teachers and administrators are very kind people who make very little money for the noble work they do and should never be criticized.

Anonymous said...

"Another 20%-23% were reading on a middle school level. I'm thinking its difficult to do high school level work when you can barely read."

5th grade level should mean about "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" level (using its lexile score of 880L and cross checking it with a Hayes LEX score of about -24). The kids should be reading better than reported, but I would not call being able to read Harry Potter "when you can barely read".

-Mark Roulo

SteveH said...

"It isn't that they CAN'T succeed. It's that they are not prepared to succeed at this time."

It seems that you haven't followed this blog for very long.

It's not that they CAN'T succeed. It's that they HAVE NOT BEEN properly prepared to succeed.

Your presumption that they just need more time is no answer.

"computer coaching"?

How about a proper curriculum in math in the lower grades?

"intense tutoring"?

How about getting it right the first time?


"Don't just send them, then act surprised when they fail."

Who is surprised? Not me. Who are you talking to here? The lower schools? Their social promotion and feel good low-expectation learning starts in Kindertarten. What you see in high school is the culmination of all that.

"For those kids, let's have an alternative."

Which ones are you talking about - the pregnant and drug addict ones? This is just a very small part of the problem. Besides, you are not solving the real problem.

"Don't just force them into a seat, then blame the teacher when they can't manage to pass."

You MUST be a high school teacher. It sounds like you just want to fix YOUR problem. At least you aren't saying that the tests are the problem. I can sympathize with your problem, but you need to look at the lower schools for a solution. It may look like external causes by the time the kids get to high school, but it all starts with educational failures and social promotion in the lower grades. By the time many kids get to high school, it's too late and no amount of summer school will help.

Actually, I'm on your side. I don't want these kids in your class. However, I want to place the responsibility and onus where it belongs. For the vast majority of kids, it's not them.

Our K-8 public schools live on the other side of the curriculum and philosophy wall from our high school. Upper school teachers can only advise lower school teachers. The lower school teachers preach full inclusion and happy, life-long learning with low expectations and no ability grouping through 8th grade. Kids (and parents) are shocked when they get to high school. It's too late. These kids are not pregnant or drug addicts. Because enough kids do well, our lower schools will not reevaluate their basic assumptions and expectations. They keep the kids, parents, and themselves happy, avoid difficult decisions, and then ship them (and the problems) off over the wall to high school. When they (rarely) look at how these kids do in high school, amazingly, all of their problems look external.

KDeRosa said...

Hi Linda.

It isn't that they CAN'T succeed. It's that they are not prepared to succeed at this time.

The pressing question is why aren't they ready at this time? Certainly most entered school below, if not far below, their middle class peers. But why did they not get an effective education in K-8?

For those kids, let's have an alternative. One that prepares them for work. Don't just force them into a seat, then blame the teacher when they can't manage to pass.


I don't blame the high school teacher necessarily, but I do blame the K-8 feeder schools. And, I'm not prepared to write off kids who may aren't able to suceed in high school due to their shoddy K-8 education. It is one thing if these kids can't do high school level work if they were adequately prepared to do high school work, it is quite another to consign to write them off if they weren't.

SteveH said...

"And public education should not be held responsible for the education of kids either."

This is the unwritten motto of our schools.

" ... teachers and administrators are very kind people who make very little money for the noble work they do and should never be criticized."

This comes in a close second.

KDeRosa said...

Unless my sarcasm meter is horribly out of whack, I think Jessica may have broken a record.

KDeRosa said...

Mark, what we need to know is what are the lexile scores of the textbooks these kids will be reading. Also, fifth grade level is the top of the curve for this group.

SteveH said...

"... don't you read Kuhn and Bracey? According to them, nothing can be done until we eliminate poverty."

That's right! Who would ever think that public education is a way for kids to get out of poverty!

Anonymous said...

"fifth grade level is the top of the curve for this group."

Not for the 20-23% I was citing. Those were reading at between the 6th and 8th grade level. :-) See your paragraph beginning, "For students dropping out in ninth grade ..."

"Mark, what we need to know is what are the lexile scores of the textbooks these kids will be reading."

Yep. And these will, almost for sure, be higher than 5th grade. I just don't think it is fair to characterize people who can read "Harry Potter" as 'barely able to read.' Unable to read the necessary 9th grade textbooks, yes. Barely able to read in general, no.

This is a pet peeve of mine because I suspect that a lot of the pundits who talk about "functional illiteracy" mean "can only read at the Harry Potter level" and I suspect that a lot of people who *read* these pundits think it means "has problems reading TV guide."

For what it is worth, Sherlock Holmes and The Illiad are going to be a problem for these students. And both are reasonable 9th grade English reading assignments.

I'm calm now :-)

-Mark R.

rightwingprof said...

Time for another "I had to walk fifteen miles in the snow barefoot when I was your age!" story.

I was in college track courses in high school (I said elsewhere we had both vocational and college track). In our English classes, we read TWO Shakespeare plays a year, from grades 9-12. A friend of mine has both a BA and an MA in English lit from one of the highest rated programs in the nation. She has never read a word of Shakespeare, nor was she ever asked or required to do so. This came out when we went to see that godawful remake of Midsummer Night's Dream with Kevin Kline. When she said she'd never read it, I asked which plays she had read. Not one.

It trickles down.

Anonymous said...

"I was in college track courses in high school ... A friend of mine has both a BA and an MA in English lit from one of the highest rated programs in the nation..."

You mean you were teaching these courses, right? If you mean you were taking them, then I don't understand your post ...

-Mark R.

allen said...

What gives Jessica's satirical tract its edge is that it could just as easily have been read as a sincere, if whiny, trendy defense of the public education system without the change of a single word.

Spedvet said...

Watch out! Coming to a school district near you:

Dramatically Increasing Graduation Rates as districts either relax their criteria, or more likely, create exceptional modification standards for those students in danger of not graduating.

If you demand it in NCLB, it will come.