One Million High School Dropouts in U.S. Each Year

Final Call, News Report, Jesse Muhammad Posted: Apr 19, 2008

“When more than one million students a year drop out of high school, it’s more than a problem, it’s a catastrophe,” retired General Colin Powell, founder of America’s Promise Alliance. “It’s time for a national ‘call to arms,’ because we cannot afford to let nearly one-third of our kids fail.”

His statement of urgency came during a press conference announcing the release of a study that details why nearly one in three U.S. high school students drops out before graduating and how his group plans to reverse the downward spiral of retention.

“Our economic and national security is at risk when we fail to educate the leaders and the workforce of the future,” added Mr. Powell, whose wife Mrs. Alma Powell serves as the chair of the Alliance.

“Cities in Crisis: A Special Analytic Report on High School Graduation,” prepared by Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, was released on April 1.

The study found urban schools in metropolitan areas surrounding 35 of the nation’s largest cities have lower graduation rates than schools in nearby suburban communities. Disparities in urban-suburban graduation rates had gaps as large as 35 percentage points in many cases. Approximately 1.2 million students drop out each year–about 7,000 every school day, or one every 26 seconds. Nearly half of all Black and Native American students are expected not to graduate with their classes, while less than six in 10 Hispanic students will.

“The number one predictor of a young person’s future success is whether they graduate from high school,” said Mrs. Powell. “But just conferring a diploma is not enough. Students today must graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary for success in college, work and life. We must invest in the whole child, and that means finding solutions that involve the family, the school and the community.”

Why do students drop out? According to interviews conducted with high school dropouts by Civic Enterprises, nearly half of dropouts said the main reason they left school was because classes were not interesting. Nearly 70 percent said they were not motivated to work hard and two-thirds would have worked harder if more were demanded of them. Approximately one-third left for personal reasons (to get a job, become a parent, or care for a family member) and one-third cited “failing in school” as a major factor. Seventy percent were confident they could have graduated, including a majority with low GPAs, the study found. More than 80 percent said their chances of staying in school would have increased if classes were more interesting and provided opportunities for real-world learning. The majority said higher expectations from teachers and parents and improved supervision in the classroom would have helped keep them in school.

“I got really bored so I started cutting class to hang out with friends,” said Fallon O’Hagan, who dropped out of school over six-years-ago. She has since been working as a waitress at two restaurants but desires to get a GED one day. “I was failing most of my classes so I figured it was too late. But if I met any student today who is thinking about dropping out I would tell them that’s not smart.”

Lyle Oats was kicked out of school and turned to drug dealing. “In school everything is a little bit boring and in a box. So I started selling drugs but then I realized I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life since I didn’t have a job or an education,” he said. He is now a student at YouthBuild Just-A-Start in Cambridge, Mass. In YouthBuild programs, low-income young people ages 16-24 work toward their GED or high school diploma, learn job skills and serve their communities by building affordable housing.

A further breakdown analysis by the Alliance showed those with the lowest graduation rates included the Detroit City School District (24.9 percent), Indianapolis Public Schools (30.5 percent), Cleveland Municipal City School District (34.1 percent), Baltimore City Public School System (34.6 percent) and Columbus Public Schools (40.9 percent).

What are the solutions?

Part of the Plan for Graduation Success, compiled by the Alliance, demands accurate graduation and dropout data; the establishment of early warning systems to support struggling students; adult advocates; rigorous college and work preparatory curriculums; focused research; and making the increase in the high school graduation a national priority.

Over the next two years, the Alliance will host drop out preventionsummits in every state in the country and in select communities. These summits will increase awareness, encourage collaboration and facilitate action in those states and communities that want to improve their graduation rates, according to the non-profit.

Related Articles:

Who Asked Us? Incarcerated Young People on the Drop Out Crisis

Solutions Sought for LAUSD Black Educational Crisis

40 Years After Walkouts, Little Has Changed, Latinos Say

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User Comments

Malissa Derose on May 12, 2008 at 18:08:16 said:

Hey, i am doing a debate for my school on how students shouldnt drop out of high school. This page has really helped me get some great ideas for my speach, but could you provide it with more percents and facts? thanks a lot.




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