Archive for February 13th, 2009
Aimee Levitt has written a terrific article on the high dropout rate among public high school students, using the local St. Louis school district to illustrate a national problem. Her article, which appears in the St. Louis Riverfront Times, is entitled “Class Conscious: St. Louis educators are desperately seeking ways to get kids back in school.”
Consider the following:
- In the United States, one student drops out of high school every 9 seconds.
- On average, dropouts earn $10,000 less per year than workers with high school diplomas.
- Dropouts are much more likely to be unemployed, recipients of government assistance, imprisoned or suffering from poor health.
Here in St. Louis, 22% of the public high school students drop out every year. This means that half of the students who started ninth grade this year will have dropped out by the time their class graduates.
Levitt’s well-written article documents the scope and depth of the problem. She also profiles many of the people working hard for the children. One of these people is Terry Houston, of Roosevelt high school. Two years ago, when he became principal, there were “38 known gangs in the building” and “attendance was less than 60%.” That is the extent of the problem, a problem that Houston has had some success in addressing, according to Levitt.
A wide-ranging solution will require the work of numerous people, of course, including people who run GED programs, education reformers from City Hall, case managers for social services, educators to run alternative programs for children who have already dropped out, and, of course, the parents of the students, many of whom are maintaining lifestyles that all-but-guarantee that their children will fall into similar dyfunctional lifestyles.
Levitt’s story is detailed and disturbing, but it also offers us some reasons to think that we can actually do better than we have been doing. After all, real human lives are at stake when we allow children to drop out of school. If that is not reason to use Herculean effort to change the system, what is?