There was an interesting article earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal about big cities attempt to stem the rising tide of high school dropouts:
According to one study, only half of the high school students in the nation's 50 largest cities are graduating in four years, with a figure as low as 25% in Detroit. And while concern over dropouts isn't new, the problem now has officials outside of public education worried enough to get directly involved.Several things struck me reading this:
"In a global economy, the single most important issue facing our country is an educated work force," says Houston Mayor Bill White. "Somebody who lacks a high school education will have lifetime earnings that are only about 60% of those of somebody with that education. That's just the impact on personal income. There are the social costs as well."
Detroit has the lowest four-year graduation rate in the study, at 25%, according to America's Promise. Officials there are revamping the high schools. So far, the school system has started a high school redesign at five sites. Among the steps being taken are better counseling services and efforts to design curricula at schools in particular locations geared to industries in the same area.
"The number of students are falling away at such a large percentage that you can't point to any one factor or any one solution," says Steve Wasko, spokesman for the school system.
Houston has embarked on a wide-ranging plan, including a program called Reach Out to Dropouts, where volunteers, including Mayor White and school superintendent Abelardo Saavedra, visit the homes of students who haven't returned to school.
- It's rather inspiring, in a way, to hear about officials right up to the mayor of a major city taking these issues seriously enough to invest the personal time and effort in going door to door -- though the businessman side of my mind can't help wondering if that's the most effective use of the mayor's time when it comes to reducing dropout rates.
- I suppose I'd be considered a wishful thinker in regards to education -- especially considering the dire straights that many in Detroit and similar cities must already be in by the time they arrive in high school -- but I can think of few prospect more likely to inspire in one the desire to drop out (out of sheer boredom if for no other reason) than a curriculum geared to my local industries. Idealist that I am -- I can't help thinking that the best way to keep people in school is to teach them something interesting.
- To college-educated-America, this must be a nearly invisible problem. I recall being shocked to read that nearly seventy percent of Americans do not have a BA or above. If you'd asked me before, I would have guessed that half of Americans had completed college.