If you could take a class photo of the 1.2 million young people who drop out of high school in this country each year, one detail would be obvious -- and troubling.
Students of color, usually poor, dominate. It's true in Detroit, where one recent report estimates that city schools graduate only 24.9 % of students who start 9th grade, and shows up in every major study of the dropout population. Failure to complete high school is an epidemic problem among poor minorities, the population that's most in need of education to escape poverty.
Actually, not completing high school is an epidemic problem among poor white students as well. More accurately not completing high school is a problem for all students who don't have the cognitive ability to master academic material on the K-12 level as it is currently taught, i.e., poorly.
The sad truth is that you have to be smart to do well enough academically to graduate high school. That's the way it's always been.
Brett over at DeHavilland Blog has an excellent post on Thomas Jefferson's views on education and his thoughts on student ability at the turn of the 19th century:
2) Every child is entitled to three years of instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic.
5) Students at grammar schools study "Greek, Latin, geography, and the higher branches of numerical arithmetic."
6) After a trial period of one or two years, the best student at each grammar school is selected for six years of further instruction. "By this means . . . the best geniusses will be raked from the rubbish annually, and be instructed, at the public expense, so far as the grammar schools go."
200 years ago, the state of education was such that only a tiny fraction of students (the geniuses) had the cognitive ability to acquire a high school by the then-current pedagogical means.
By and large pedagogical techniques haven't improved since then. You still need to be pretty smart to acquire the watered down academics that pass for a k-12 education today.
Education continues to be brutally discriminatory against the dumb.
If you want to increase the percentage of kids that graduate high school, the simple answer is to improve teaching. Such improvement requires innovation and that innovation is not forthcoming from today's education monopoly.
If the editors at the Detroit Free Press really cared about the educational plight of poor kids they'd be lobbying for better schools. Unfortunately, based on this editorial they don't even know what a good school is.
The Detroit Free Press thinks that the problem is that the schools that minority kids are going to are worse than the schools that middle class kids go to. They aren't. Educationally, they are the same. The education provided at both schools is for all intents and purposes is the same. The problem is that a higher percentage of kids in the schools that minorities attend do not have the cognitive ability to take advantage of the poorly implemented education being offered.
Nationally, minority students are four times as likely to be enrolled in one of the 2,000 high schools that have been identified as producing approximately half of the nation's dropouts, according to the Campaign's report, "A Plan for Success."
Anyone daring to dismiss this fact as just another minority problem isn't paying enough attention to the population trends. The minority students who are either dropping out of school or getting a grossly inequitable education are also the growing segments of the U.S. population.
The Detroit Free Press thinks that the tired bromides set forth in the Campaign for High School Equity's "A Plan for Success" are the answer. We'll take a look at them in the next post.