The Drop Out Rate- Let’s Do Some Math

Once upon a time, a boy from a political family got to be Governor of Texas.  He put in place some programs that looked good at the outset, but digging deeper, these programs had fundamental flaws.  Never the less, convinced of the topical success, said Governor was elected President of the United States and brought these pet programs national.  One of these programs is what we now refer to as No Child Left Behind, or NCLB.

Today, Ken Thomas from the AP reports that seventeen of the nation’s fifty largest cities had a high school graduation rate of lower than 50%, meaning 1.2 million students in the US are dropping out annually.

Let’s rewind time a bit.  Molly Ivins appeared on Fresh Air with Terry Gross on October 8, 2003.   She had just published her book, Bushwacked, a follow up to her first book on George Bush, “Shrub- the short and happy political life of George W. Bush.”  Molly Ivins says in the interview that “It’s as if W has gone to Washington to spread the gospel of the Lone Star State, ” and “That I’ve often thought that Texas is the national laboratory for bad government.”  Terry and Molly then talk about education and the “Texas Education Miracle”.  While Texas public schools did improve since 1970, but what appeared to be initial improvement in test scores in Texas were actually fraudulent, because the scores were improving by increasing the drop out rate, which was approaching 40%.  When kids drop out, they don’t take the test; these kids are largely those not performing well, and therefore, you drop the lower performers, raising the overall scores.

Now that the Texas program has become No Child Left Behind, the testing, but no additional funding to do better, and this pattern is replicated nationally with these dismal graduation rates now on a national level.  Is this the real explanation for the increased performance on standardized tests nationwide???

Now I will be the first person who will state that giving children normed tests can be useful.  You get to compare your child’s performance with others of their same age and grade level.  However, we get this data, but it often is not used for very much on a child level.  We don’t use these tests as precursors to diagnosing learning disabilities or specific problems or deficits with a particular child.   We use this data as a whole sale recommendation or condemnation of curriculum, teacher and schools, which I think is grossly unfair.

There are many problems in education, but most of them stem from treating education as a widget factory for citizens, rather than the development of thinkers and future innovators and problem solvers.   This short sighted “business” approach to education is going to haunt us for years to come.  I hope we can do something concrete to begin fixing it soon- that’s what the whole Education 2.0 movement is about, and I hope we can make strides towards this goal at Podcamp NYC 2.0 as well.



Filed under education, politics

3 responses to “The Drop Out Rate- Let’s Do Some Math

  1. Melody

    Isn’t it ironic that the only people who seem to be getting it “right” in running schools lately are the charter schools? They are run by businesses with heavy parental involvement and seem to be fostering thinking while they run their real life widget businesses simultaneously. It seems that our school systems produce more widgets than the widget businesses. People who run schools seem to be very good at creating rather than solving problems. Business leaders know how to think outside the box and solve (also prevent) problems or they aren’t leaders for long. School districts often keep trying the same strategies over and over (the only thing that seems to change is how much money is thrown at the issue) and expecting different results. A well run business would rarely take that approach.

    I am glad that at least one of my children is able to experience a well run charter school. I wish that my child with special needs had the same option. I think what needs to change usually comes down to who is “running” the business and the business “plan”. Maybe if school administrators and board members ran a little widget business on the side, they could get it all out of their systems (I couldn’t resist) and stop practicing their craft on our kids! LOL

  2. 1.2 million dropouts is a travesty. In reality 1 dropout is a travesty. One thing that has been neglected in the educational system is the arts and creative thought/problem solving.

    Here is one of my recent posts on my blog:


  3. Kenny

    I think that this is really something bad that is happening throughout the U.S.. Many more people are dropping out, and it really is a shame. And I know this sounds like what a grown-up would say, but I am only a fifteen-year-old in 10th grade.

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