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Archive for the ‘Grad/dropout rates’ Category

Dropout epicenters

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

The ever-entertaining Daily Beast has a piece on high school dropouts, but also ranks the 10 cities with the lowest percentages of high-school graduates.  It’s an interesting list, since most of the big urban cities (Detroit, Chicago, etc) are not on it.  The pandemic of high school dropouts peaks in several unexpected places: according to DB, the top dropout city is Bakersfeld, CA.

From the story:

Fifteen percent of American high schools, known as “dropout factories,” produce more than half of American dropouts. Research shows these schools are clustered in California, the Southwest, and the Old South. Now a new Census analysis by The Daily Beast demonstrates that regions with poor schools are lifelong magnets for high-school dropouts, and suffer from stagnant economies and rock-bottom salaries.

Popularity: 3% [?]

Reunion prompts diversity questions

Monday, August 31st, 2009

My wife had her 20th high school reunion recently.  She attended a large public high school noted then, as now, for the diversity of its student body.  But attendees of the reunion itself were not nearly as diverse as the student body had been 20 years earlier. This, she and her peers readily agreed, was a shame.

What would account for the difference?  My completely unresearched guess is that it has a lot to do with academic proficiency.  At this high school today, recent School Accountability Reports show black and Hispanic students with proficiency rates over 40 percentile points behind their white classmates.  Better academic preparation in high school leads to more post-secondary education, increased professional opportunities and higher income.

I would expect that students who are not proficient by graduation don’t pursue additional education and often end up in menial and blue-collar jobs.   And I think people with lower incomes, educational levels, and professional status are far less likely to attend their high school reunions. The proficiency rate of the high school’s black and Hispanic students is currently under 50% (for white students it is 90%).

My bias here is that I have long thought we measure diversity the wrong way.  (more…)

Popularity: 6% [?]

The dwindling class of 2002

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

EdNews staff writer Nancy Mitchell found some interesting numbers over at CDE:

A recent study by the Piton Foundation, the Denver Scholarship Foundation and the Pell Institute, with the help of Denver Public Schools, painted a stark picture of DPS graduates after receiving their diplomas.

Data from the Colorado Department of Education fills in the blanks for the only DPS class that can now be tracked from grade 1 through six years after high school graduation.

1990 – Grade 1 – 5,152

1991 – Grade 2 – 5,090

1992 – Grade 3 – 5,111

1993 – Grade 4 – 5,019

1994 – Grade 5 – 4,900

1995 – Grade 6 – 4,572

1996 – Grade 7 – 4,493

1997 – Grade 8 – 4,537

1998 – Grade 9 – Not available

1999 – Grade 10 – 4,370

2000 – Grade 11 – 3,992

2001 – Grade 12 – 2,814

Graduation, spring 2002 – 2,854

Entered college within 12 months of graduation – 1,387

Entered college for at least a month anytime after graduation – 1,777

Attained any type of degree within four years – 291

Attained any type of degree within six years – 539 (more…)

Popularity: 2% [?]

Changing counseling instead of changing schedules

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

In an article for the Sunday edition of The Denver Post, Jeremy Meyer writes how the economy is putting additional strain on students and their families in the Denver Public Schools and how that is increasing the pressure  on school staffs to perform jobs that are outside their expertise.

All of this comes at a time when that same economy is pinching DPS budgets in a way that eliminates counseling positions, social work positions and psychologist positions.

Obviously these reductions do not bode well for anyone. However, isn’t there a saying about how necessity is maternal and innovation is its offspring? It all sounds existential to me. But, this may be the epitome of it. (more…)

Popularity: 4% [?]

DPS Grads and College

Friday, April 10th, 2009

A new study, with coverage in the Denver Post and EdNews Colorado (longer and more detail). The take away:

A first-of-its-kind study tracking Denver Public Schools’ students six years after high school graduation shows just 56 percent enrolled even briefly in college and far fewer earned a degree of any kind.

For Hispanic students and those from poor families, who make up the majority of DPS’ graduates, the numbers are worse.

Only 45 percent of low-income students who graduated from Denver high schools went on to any college and only 39 percent of Hispanic students did. Of those, more than half in each group dropped out within six years. [...]

The study found that all DPS graduates who entered college were less likely to obtain a degree than similar districts nationally. Of DPS graduates who entered community college, 49 percent were still in school after 3 years and 6 percent graduated.

Unfortunately (to me anyway) the study does not appear (confession – I skimmed it) to link proficiency data. Here is recent 10th grade DPS  data (the percent of students at or above proficiency). The annual increase is 1.1 points:

2006: 43.6%
2007: 42.7%
2008: 45.8%

To me, the reaction to the study comprises more hand-wringing than it should.  While I’m sure we will enter into the same cauldron of social factors, it’s pretty clear that most DPS graduates are not prepared for college, which in my mind is probably a (the?) primary reason why they both don’t attend and don’t finish.

Popularity: 2% [?]

Pay to show…. up?

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Down in Pueblo, there is controversy over Cesar Chavez charter school offering students $100 gift certificates to enroll. My gut reaction was very much in opposition, but on reflection it is harder for me to argue against it entirely.  Here is the slippery slope:

No one argues against tuition aid or scholarships at colleges or private schools, so conceivably most of us are comfortable with schools subsidizing students in some way, particularly with low-income students (which Cesar Chavez overwhelmingly serves).

As public schools, charters don’t have tuition.  But many charter schools now offer some sort of program by which students earn “credit” for good behavior or academic achievement, and those credits are often redeemable for goods – usually either school supplies (and this can include school sweatshirts, etc), but also tickets to museums or performances.  I suspect that some District schools may have similar programs, either formally or informally (good kids get opportunities not offered to all kids).  Not many people argue against incentive programs within a school.

At Manual High School this spring, students were paid to take the CSAPs, including a bonus for showing up on time. As Alan has pointed out, the idea of paying for grades has wider acceptance. If you are going to pay for grades, why not also pay for attendance?  There is significant research about the impact on the drop-out rate in students as young as 11 years old.  If you are not in school, chances are pretty good you are not learning, so why not incentivize attendance?  After all, Denver’s ProComp rewards teachers — in cash — for merely showing up for work in “difficult to serve” (i.e. high-poverty) schools, so why should we not extend this same approach to students.

So what might one think about a school giving students “credits,” even gift certificates, for excellent attendance — particularly if these credits are redeemable for school-related goods (such as notebooks — or just books)?

If one is not repulsed by this, to paraphrase Shaw, we are now haggling over the price — arguing a difference of degrees, not of kind.  If Cesar Chavez gave students with 95% attendance records a $10 gift certificate for specific goods at the end of each month (instead of $100 at the beginning of the year), would one still complain?

Yes, there is always the purity of belief that students should love learning for its own sake, but there are lots of parents out there who give rewards (money or something else) connected to schools – and even more who give punishments.  Schools already reward good students, just less explicitly and rarely with straight cash.

Personally, I can’t quite say I support what Cesar Chavez is doing.  But I think it is more complex than the knee-jerk reaction that it can’t be a reasonable approach in trying to solve the problem of low attendence.

Popularity: 2% [?]

MESA blazes an impressive trail

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Mapleton Expeditionary Learning through the Arts (MESA) high school may be the first “district managed” public high school with a diverse student body in CO to get 100% of their seniors into college, check out this video.

MESA has a student population of 44% free/reduced lunch according to the Colorado Department of Education.   MESA joins Denver School of Science and Technology  (45% free/reduced lunch) and Arrupe Jesuit (over 80% low-income) in setting the bar for Colorado’s high schools when it comes to college admissions.    

Imagine what might happen if Colorado’s high schools required all kids to apply to college: students and their families could then decide not to go but at least they would have an option.   Instead we’ve got Cap4Kids.  

I know we need to see how these kids do once in college but this is the first step.  Nice job MESA!


Popularity: 2% [?]

USDOE backs better grad rate calculations

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

The U.S. Department of Education, which is typically tied up spending millions of taxpayer dollars on wasteful abstinence programs, or firing crooked Reading First directors, actually did something good this week.  States will now be required to use a single formula to calculate graduation and dropout rates.  The Times reports:

The adoption of a federal graduation formula would correct one of the most glaring weaknesses of the federal No Child Left Behind law. Although the law requires states and high schools to report their graduation rates to the federal government, it allows states to set their own formulas for calculating them. As a result, most states have used formulas that understate the number of dropouts, and official graduation rates are not comparable from state to state. The No Child law establishes no national school completion goal.

In Colorado and around the country, states and districts have played fast and loose with graduation and dropout rates, cooking them to a merciless pulp.  No one really believed that Colorado’s dropout rate was 4.4 percent in 2007, but that’s what CDE reported anyway. 

The new formula that will be used to compute graduation and dropout rates has not yet been determined, but is likely to incorporate a cohort approach, in which students are tracked from 9th grade through graduation.  This method will reveal the truth:  that nearly a third of all high school students never finish.   And that’s something we all need to know.


Popularity: 1% [?]

College push a national trend

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Preparation for college seems to be the centerpiece of the education reforms Gov. Bill Ritter outlined in his State of the State speech.

Despite the vagueness of Ritter’s plan, some educators and politicians already have raised concerns about whether a college prep emphasis would serve students who want to follow other pathways.

It’s a debate that’s stirring across the country, according to an article in the Jan. 17 New York Times.

The article notes “a growing sense of urgency among educators that the primary goal of many large high schools serving low-income and urban populations — to move students toward graduation — is no longer enough. Now, educators say, even as they struggle to lift dismal high school graduation rates, they must also prepare the students for college, or some form of post-secondary school training, with the skills to succeed.”

But, the article continues, “the task is daunting, and the outcome uncertain.”

Citing figures that will sound familiar to Coloradans, the article notes, “Of the 68 percent of high school students nationwide who go to college each year, about a third will need remedial courses, experts say. For various reasons, from financial to a lack of academic preparedness, thousands of low-income students drop out of college each year.”

Read the full article here. (Free registration required.)

Popularity: 2% [?]

A bright ray of high school hope in Mapleton

Friday, October 19th, 2007

This week, I had the privilege to visit the Mapleton Expeditionary Learning School for the Arts, MESA and was blown away.  I’m not one that typically gets teary-eyed (in a good way) and feels like screaming for joy when leaving a school.  I more often leave the typical high school feeling depressed, angry and ready to file a child negligence lawsuit.                         

MESA may be the first district managed public high school with a diverse student population (about 50% low-income) in Colorado to get 100% of its seniors to apply to and get into college (mostly four year schools).   We will have to wait to see if this happens but I suspect MESA will do it, based on what I heard there. 

A school-wide meeting run by students began with accolades for quality work and character, followed by a time where students took responsibility for various violations to the community. Then, the school director, Michael Johnston, gave an update about where the school stands in its college transition goal. 

Next came a powerful ritual where the first three seniors to get accepted to college announced their school, scholarship amounts, walked through a line of kids, climbed a rickety ladder and signed the newly designed ’08 college panel. When they finished, Michael reminded students that they would all do this over the next six months.   

There are a few other schools that have either met the 100 % college acceptance goal or will this school year (Arrupe Jesuit, Delores Huerta Charter and Denver School of Science and Technology Charter).  MESA like all of the other high-performing schools serving high percentages of low income kids, has a strong leader, a coherent school design and adults wholly committed to getting all kids prepared for success post high school. 

These schools practice what they preach and are very different than the typical large impersonal factory high schools we find in most places. 

Colorado is making slow but some progress with these new school results.  Up until last year, I believe, there was not a single high school in Colorado (private, public charter or public district) that was graduating and sending a majority of its low-income students to college. 

Arrupe’s first graduating class in June broke the ceiling.  It looks like at least three other public schools will join Arrupe in proving that it is possible to make high school work for poor and minority kids.    


Popularity: 2% [?]

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