9/08/2006

Un-Schooling In The Christian Science Monitor

The Christian Science Monitor, which I admonished earlier this year for its seeming dropoff in education coverage (see below), today puts out an interesting Amanda Paulson look at renewed interest in innovative-seeming dropout recovery programs that's come along with new, bracing dropout statistics (Push to win back dropouts).

It's not all new stuff for anyone who's following grad rates/DO prevention closely, but a couple of the programs profiled have done what all too few traditional schools (and even charters) have done: putting schools where the students are (malls, apartment buildings), scheduling around students' work and caregiving responsibilities, and otherwise "un-schooling" the traditional school as we know it.

Lots of people talk about this -- new schedules, online or hybrid learning, different administrative procedures, and the like -- but maybe some of these dropout recovery programs are leading the way.

Previous Post: The Christian Science Monitor Responds

2 Comments:

Blogger Caroline said...

Just for the record, let's remember that current U.S. graduation rates are the highest in history. Here's a commentary adapted from www.sfschools.org , where I co-blog.

***
Education opponents have been winning news space and airtime with a supposed “graduation crisis” that is simply bogus. It’s time to set the record straight.

Economists Lawrence Mishel and Joydeep Roy analyze historical graduation rates in their Economic Policy Institute book “Rethinking Graduation Rates and Trends.”
( http://www.epi.org/content.cfm/book_grad_rates )

Their findings show that U.S. high school graduation rates have never been higher. A higher percentage of students graduate from high school today than ever in history. The false charge that there is a dropout crisis is a weapon wielded by the privatization advocates who hope to eliminate public education.

Here’s Mishel and Roy’s conclusion: “Some of the discussions of recent high school completion and dropout rates claim a newly discovered crisis of low completion. Remarkably, these recent discussions have paid very little attention to the trends in high school completion over the last 40 years. In fact, historically there has been remarkable progress in raising both high school completion rates and in closing racial/ethnic gaps in high school completion.”

Yes, it would be ideal if still more students graduated from high school, and if there were no racial/ethnic gap in graduation rates. But again: Our public-school system is doing better than ever before at graduating students from high school and reducing the racial/ethnic gap in graduation rates.

In the recent past, depending on culture and demographic, it was not considered normal or even desirable in many families for their kids to graduate from high school.

The U.S. Statistical Abstract reports on the percentage of high school graduates in the population over age 65. In 1980, 24 percent of those over 65 (born in 1915 and before) were high school grads. In 1990 that had risen to 33 percent (for those born in 1925 and before); by 1997 it was 34.3 percent (born in 1928 and before).

My own grandmother – born in 1899 and raised in the Appalachians – dropped out after eighth grade to find factory work in Columbus. That was the norm and the expectation in her family, and it would have been an unthinkable act of defiance and disloyalty for her to resist.

When I’ve mentioned this, it has sometimes been suggested that graduating from 8th grade in 1914 was like graduating from high school today. Well, not really. My beloved grandmother was literate and loved to write letters. But she once wrote to tell me that men have one fewer rib than women on one side, proving that Genesis was literally true.

Back to Mishel and Roy: They explain that data are available only back to the 1960s, and for Latinos as a separate group only back to 1994. Boiling down their complex findings, we learn that:

* The high school completion rate for blacks increased from 41.6 percent in 1962 to 88 percent in 2004.
* The same rate for whites increased from 69.2 percent in 1962 to 93 percent in 2004.
* From 1994-2004, Latino graduates rates rose from 72.9 percent to 80.3 percent for males and from 76.4 percent to 82.3 percent for females.

These figures conclusively disprove the notion that there’s a new dropout crisis. . Mishel and Roy find it remarkable that the historical context is invariably left out of these discussions. But they’re economists, not politicians. It’s not remarkable; it’s a political strategy.

***


Blogger Caroline Grannan is a San Francisco public-school parent, volunteer and advocate

10:53 AM  
Blogger KDeRosa said...

These figures conclusively disprove the notion that there’s a new dropout crisis.

Hardly. There is at least equally compelling evidence from Greene/Winters that the Mischel/Roy analysis greatly underestimates the dropout rate. Moreover, whether the dropout crisis is new or not is irrelevant; the point is that it is presently too high.

3:20 PM  

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