Wednesday, November 22, 2006

High School Dropouts

ABC News reports that Students Dropping Out of High School Reaches Epidemic Levels. According to the article ...
A recent study by the Department of Education found that 31 percent of American students were dropping out or failing to graduate in the nation's largest 100 public school districts.
Is 31% too high? I suspect so, but it depends on so many things. The real question—the one that's never addressed in the popular media—is, "What should be the ideal success rate in high school?" Clearly it shouldn't be zero or even 50% because we need to have public high schools that educate the majority of students to the level of high school graduate.

Should it be 100%? Of course not. It would be silly to have a situation where everyone was capable of graduating from high school. High school wouldn't mean anything. In order to be meaningful, a high school graduation diploma has to be a significant achievement and that means that some students won't succeed.

What's the ideal number? Does a 20% "dropout" rate sound about right to you? It does to me, but I'd like to hear other opinions. A 20% "dropout" rate translates to an 80% success rate. It means that the degree of difficulty of high school courses is set at a level achievable by the vast majority of students, but not all. The bar isn't too high and it's not too low. The important point is that there is a bar.

6 comments :

  1. Should it be 100%? Of course not. It would be silly to have a situation where everyone was capable of graduating from high school.

    But if people flunk out, they might feel bad. They might even be offended. And that would make Ed Brayton angry.

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  2. But this overlooks the fact the there are many reasons for dropping out, most of which have nothing to do with capability. For example, here in Medford, Oregon, a recent survey showed that 9% of current high school students are homeless. Most of these will never graduate and not because they can't handle the work. Of course, this doesn't count homeless kids who have already dropped out. There are a host of other reasons, such as parental drug use, economic instability, and so on that are factors. It is very difficult for kids to motivate themselves to finish high school when there is no support from the home.

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  3. All these reasons are valid. If 20% of students don't have what it takes to finish high school then that sets the lower boundary. Anything above that is a problem that society should be able to solve.

    What I'm objecting to is the implicit assumption in the popular press that anything above 0% is a problem that we need to solve.

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  4. "Should it be 100%? Of course not. It would be silly to have a situation where everyone was capable of graduating from high school. High school wouldn't mean anything. In order to be meaningful, a high school graduation diploma has to be a significant achievement and that means that some students won't succeed."

    Is there *any* consensus on what a holding a high school diploma should mean? I think not. Let's establish that first then determine what portion of students might be expected to fail.

    I prefer we gave certifications of some sort in particular areas: reading comprehension, writing ability, mathematics, history, knowledge of literature, musical ability, .... It is useful when you are part of a large society to have some more or less objective measure of your skills in order to enter the job market. High school diplomas don't say a lot in and of themselves; they are a horribly gross measuring stick.

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  5. i think most of the people dropout because they dont wanna go back and do it all over again and they would propbaly be made fun of if they ''flunk'' it all over

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  6. It should be 100% because then there wouldn't be many jobs out there.

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