High school dropout rates are falling, but the price is high
By CC Logan and Indigo Rossi
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the high school dropout rate has been steadily decreasing since the 1990’s, and, as of 2014, was at the quite low 6.5 percent. However, this isn’t always a good thing if education quality is sacrificed.
In a report by ets.org, an organization dedicated to creating educational opportunities, a study in 2007 found that high school dropouts make $9,200 less per year and $375,000 less over the course of their lives than high school graduates. It is clear getting a high school diploma significantly betters the lives of the people who obtain them.
Many schools prevent students from dropping out in the right way. According to an article by edutopia.org, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, getting parents involved in their students’ education and connecting classes to the real world are just a few of the effective strategies that keep kids in schools.
Summit Preparatory Charter High School is a school with less than 1 percent of students dropping out, Summit Prep Executive Director Penelope Pak McMillan as stated in an email. According to Mary Beth Thompson, dean of students for the tenth and eleventh grade, one of their main strategies at Summit Prep is to have interventions. Dean Thompson said interventions are done with parents, peers, teachers, mentors and other people who have gone through similar situations. This shows that personal bonds and special personalized attention keep kids in school.
All these examples and more show that educators in recent years have made a positive push to keep kids in school, and, with the continuation of these strategies, more kids will continue to graduate.
However, for some schools and states, their lower dropout rate comes with a lower quality of education. In a Los Angeles Times article, it was stated, “The California Department of Education reported a rise in the statewide graduation rate, to 82 percent. But one reason for that was the cancellation of the high school exit exam, which used to be required for graduation and which students could pass only if they had attained a modicum of understanding of Algebra and English skills.”
The article also stated Texas schools will allow students to participate in homeschooling or alternative methods of education without checking if they are actually getting this education. Part of the reason for these tactics is the creation of an act called Every Student Succeeds, which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act and aimed to create equal opportunity for all students. This makes it so schools are accountable for new graduation rates that incentivizes schools to use cheap tactics to improve graduation rates.
In the NAEP, an assessment of seniors nationwide, it was found that fewer than 40 percent were actually ready for college-level work in 2013. A huge purpose of high school it to prepare students to be successful later on in life; college is a huge part of that, and schools are failing more than 60 percent of students.
An example of this is the Berea High School in Greenville, S.C. The New York Times found that in four years their graduation rate has jumped from 65 percent to 80 percent. However, according to the ACT college entrance exam, only one-tenth of the eleventh graders were ready for college level work and only one-fourteenth were ready for entry-level math.
This is a clear case of quantity over quality. It is not better to have fewer students graduate, but those that do should be prepared for college and the real world. While having higher graduation rates is undoubtedly good, we need to take a long hard look at how we achieve them.