Closing ‘Dropout Factories’
The Graduation-Rate Crisis We Know, and What Can Be Done About It
The debate over how best to measure the nation’s graduation rate is important. We need to know who graduates and who does not. ( Diplomas Count , June 22, 2006.) Yet in the midst of questions about measurement and data quality, we must not lose sight of what lies plainly before us and is calling loudly for immediate action.
For the past decade, we and our colleagues Ruth Neild at the University of Pennsylvania and Liza Herzog at the Philadelphia Education Fund have studied the dropout and graduation-rate crisis at the school level. We have learned that about 15 percent of the nation’s high schools produce close to half of its dropouts. These 2,000 high schools are the nation’s dropout factories. They have weak promoting power—the number of seniors is routinely 60 percent or less than the number of freshmen four years earlier—and large numbers of their students are not making steady progress toward graduation.
About half of these schools are in cities; the other half are found primarily throughout the South and Southwest. Whether the national graduation rate has gotten better, worse, or remained static over the last decade is unclear to us. What we do know is that the number of high schools with weak promoting power has nearly doubled...
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- Senior Content and Curriculum Leader
- BrightBytes, San Francisco, CA
- Superintendent of Schools - SAU 9
- SAU 9 - Conway, NH, Conway, NH
- English Teacher
- MVCSD, Mount Vernon, NY
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- Doctors Charter School, Miami Shores, FL
- Superintendent of Schools
- Orleans Parish School District, New Orleans, LA