Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

On Dropout Rates, Methods Should Not Obscure Needs

April 04, 2006 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

One unfortunate implication of Lawrence Mishel’s March 8, 2006, Commentary is that it is OK to put our heads back in the sand about the need to improve our nation’s high schools (“The Exaggerated Dropout Crisis”). This would be a misguided, nay, tragic setback.

The data analyzed by Mr. Mishel and his colleague Joydeep Roy are as subject to bias and measurement error as those of the researchers they critique. Readers will likely be subject to more methodological sparring in the coming weeks.

It would be truly sad if we allowed these dogfights at 30,000 feet to distract us from the reality on the ground. Far too many high schools fail to prepare far too many youths for success in college, work, and civic life.

When researchers from the University of Chicago, the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Pennsylvania, and Johns Hopkins University have used individual-level data to construct and analyze longitudinal cohort-graduation rates in major American cities, they have continually found district graduation rates in the 50 percent range, and even lower rates for nonselective neighborhood high schools.

Our own research indicates that there may be as many as 1,000 high schools like these, where graduation is not the norm. We know where these high schools are located (in large cities and across the rural South) and who attends them (poor and minority youths).

There are viable strategies for improving these schools, and the systems in which they reside, that can help lift up rather than push out the students they serve. The national high-school-reform movement is addressing one of the most important civil rights challenges of our generation. We must keep this in view. And, as the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi said, “Then we have work to do.”

Nettie Legters

Robert Balfanz

Center for Social Organization of Schools

Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, Md.

A version of this article appeared in the April 05, 2006 edition of Education Week as On Dropout Rates, Methods Should Not Obscure Needs

Events

Special Education Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table - Special Education: Proven Interventions for Academic Success
Special education should be a launchpad, not a label. Join the conversation on how schools can better support ALL students.
Special Education K-12 Essentials Forum Innovative Approaches to Special Education
Join this free virtual event to explore innovations in the evolving landscape of special education.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
STEM Fusion: Empowering K-12 Education through Interdisciplinary Integration
Join our webinar to learn how integrating STEM with other subjects can revolutionize K-12 education & prepare students for the future.
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: May 29, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: May 8, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: April 17, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: March 20, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read