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DROPOUT STATISTICS CONTINUE TO PLAGUE HIGH SCHOOLS: Houston Miscalculates Dropout Numbers; Reform Efforts Underway in Ohio and New York City

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"based on the notion that less accomplished students-including those in danger of dropping out-are capable of handling more difficult work and that more of them will graduate if they are challenged more,"

In High School Graduate Rates in the United StatesJay P. Greene of the Manhattan Institute notes that less than 75 percent of all eighth-graders graduate from high school in five years, and in urban schools the graduation rates often dip below 50 percent. Nationwide, he pegs the graduate rate at a dismal 69 percent. To give a true picture of what is happening in high schools today, Greene calculated the number of students graduating on time. Previously, school districts tried to calculate the number of dropouts, which severely underestimated the problem.

In Houston, for example, school officials have been making headlines for incorrectly reporting the number of dropouts. A recent state audit found that more than half of the 5,500 students who left the school system in the 2001-2002 school year should have been classified as dropouts but were not, according to The New York Times. As a result, the audit recommends that the accountability ranking of 16 middle and high schools should be changed from “exemplary” or “recognized” to “academically unacceptable.” The Houston school district is appealing the decision to state officials, saying that the problem was merely sloppy record keeping.

Meanwhile, in Ohio, Susan Tave Zelman, the state superintendent of public instruction, is working to improve the state’s graduation rate with help from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the KnowledgeWorks Foundation. She recently told The Cincinnati Enquirer that about 20 percent of the state’s ninth-graders never graduate. In some districts, according to The Enquirer, fewer than half of ninth-graders graduate.

In response, the State Board of Education created a new statewide high school redesign task force that will examine successful schools in the Cincinnati and West Clearmont districts. Over the last two years, large high schools in these two districts have been able to raise student achievement by creating small, focused high schools that help all students achieve.

Research has shown that smaller schools personalize and contextualize students’ education experience and facilitate the implementation of other effective strategies such as literacy instruction, block scheduling, and other support services for those in need of extra help. The task force is scheduled to make its recommendations in June 2004.

Gates Foundation Expands Presence in New York City

In addition to announcing its grant to the state of Ohio, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently added two more schools to its family of early college high schools. The two new schools, the Science, Technology, and Research High School and the Manhattan/Hunter Science High School expect to hold no more than 500 students and offer advanced curriculum to every student, not just the highest performers.

The two new schools are part of the foundation’s plan to sponsor 150 new early college high schools nationally. The concept behind the advanced curriculum for all is “based on the notion that less accomplished students-including those in danger of dropping out-are capable of handling more difficult work and that more of them will graduate if they are challenged more,” according to The New York Times. “There are many, many more students who are capable of more rigorous work,” said Michele Cahill, senior counselor to the New York City schools chancellor for education policy. “This is an attempt to have more of a variety of high schools for them to attend,” she told the newspaper.

Read the Houston dropout article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/11/national/11HOUS.html

Read The Cincinnati Enquirer article at: http://www.enquirer.com/editions/2003/07/16/loc_stateboard.html

Read more about the New York City reform efforts at: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/14/nyregion/14SCHO.html

Learn more about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation at: http://www.gatesfoundation.org

Partners in Hispanic Education: White House Initiative Leads to New Partnership

 

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education announced a new partnership that would work toward improving education for Hispanics in the United States. The partnership includes some of the nation’s leading Hispanic organizations, corporate leaders, and national private entities, as well as the individuals connected with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.

According to the department, the partnership’s goal is to “empower the Hispanic community by equipping families with educational tools and informational resources afforded under NCLB in order to assist them in becoming stronger advocates for their children’s education from early childhood to college completion.” According to a recent report by the Pew Hispanic Center, the partnership has its work cut out for it. The report, Hispanic Youth Dropping Out of U.S. Schools: Measuring the Challenge, found that one of every three Hispanic youths in the United States is a high school dropout.

Read the complete press release from the U.S. Department of Education at: http://www.ed.gov/PressReleases/07-2003/07092003.html

 

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