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“WHAT HAPPENED TO DROPOUTS FROM THE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 2004?”: Brief Finds Over a Third Not Working and Not in School

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“Their futures are at stake and without education from either being in school or on the job, opportunities are limited. And it’s not just the students who will suffer, but the community, which will be affected socially and economically.”
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A new brief from the California Dropout Research Project (CDRP) checks in with California students who were scheduled to graduate in 2004 but who dropped out after the tenth grade. It finds that in 2006 over one third of these students were doing absolutely nothing—neither going to school (high school or college) nor working—two years after their scheduled graduation date. Nationwide, 30 percent of dropouts were not in school and not working four years after leaving school.

“We are losing too many kids,” said Russell Rumberger, director of the CDRP. “Their futures are at stake and without education from either being in school or on the job, opportunities are limited. And it’s not just the students who will suffer, but the community, which will be affected socially and economically.”

According to the brief, students who never dropped out of high school fared much better, both in California and in the rest of the nation. As shown in the graphs below, 88 percent of California students from the Class of 2004 were either working or in school in 2006; nationwide, 91 percent were either in school or working.

 Graph: California Class of 2004 Work Status Graph: U.S. Class of 2004 Work Status

Source: Education Longitudinal Study 2002, National Center for Education Statistics

The good news is that over half of all tenth-grade dropouts eventually completed high school by earning a diploma or a GED or were still attempting to do so two years after they were scheduled to graduate. Nationwide, approximately 70 percent of tenth-grade dropouts had either graduated, earned their GED, or were still trying to do so. However, 46 percent of California dropouts and 32 percent of dropouts nationwide had abandoned their quest for a high school diploma two years after they were scheduled to graduate.

Graph: High School Completion Status for Dropouts from the Class of 2004: Two Years Later

Source: Education Longitudinal Study 2002, National Center for Education Statistics

CDRP analyzed data from a national study that tracked high school sophomores from 2002 through 2006, two years after their scheduled graduation. It then compared the educational and employment experiences of students in California and in the rest of the nation who dropped out after tenth grade and those who never dropped out. According to the brief, 16 percent of California tenth graders dropped out compared to 13 percent in the rest of the nation. The brief does not report the percentages of students who dropped out in eleventh or twelfth grades.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Rumberger said that dropping out is “more of a process than an event” and that there “are a lot of telltale signs along the way.” He said that failure in middle and high school were the best indicators but added that data suggest that the problems that lead to students dropping out can begin as early as first grade. “It means there are a lot of places in a child’s school career where we could intervene to help,” he said.

The brief is available here.

“Some California dropouts finish high school but don’t succeed beyond, study finds,” is available here.

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