Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dropout crisis is statewide problem

From today's AJC -

A few weeks ago, the AJC’s front page story was “State’s high school graduation rate a crisis.” It reported that Georgia has one of the lowest graduation rates in the country.

In fact, Georgia is in the bottom five states. But the focus was solely on the Department of Education and schools. Are they really the only ones to blame? Are they the only entities that should be held accountable?

This is a statewide crisis — not an Atlanta crisis, not an urban crisis, not a poor crisis, not a North Georgia crisis, not an African-American crisis — a Georgia crisis.

Most of our Georgia students attend a school where graduating is not the norm. Most of the districts that we live in have low levels of graduation rates at our neighborhood high schools.

With over 20,000 Georgia dropouts annually, the graduation rate is a crisis in every community throughout Georgia. And every community needs to take responsibility for its schools and recognize that this is a community issue. We must all play a part in the solution.

Businesses, parents and extended family, faith-based organizations, community organizations and government must take ownership of their part in the solution to Georgia’s graduation crisis. This cannot fall solely on the shoulders of educators, administrators or the Georgia Department of Education.

Communities, as a whole, must make graduation rates a priority and mobilize to support and, in some instances, transform high schools. We need more mentoring programs and tutors, better after-school programs, smaller class sizes, individualized attention, specific programming for at-risk drop-outs, parent education and the list goes on. Dedicated partnerships between schools and their communities are needed to connect resources and services.

A number of organizations met at Communities In Schools last week to work on a “graduation summit” for Atlanta and Georgia. Because the many causes underlying dropping out of school are so complex, the group is seeking ways to link support for schools, families and students to all who are committed to raising graduation rates — from chambers of commerce, to United Way groups, to community developers, to after-school programs, to technical colleges, to work-force development activities. Undeniably, there should be a focus on high expectations and academic rigor.

But there must also be a focus on nonacademic barriers that potential dropouts and their families face. There has to be a holistic approach to increasing the number of Georgia high school graduates.

Through Communities In Schools’ Performance Learning Centers, many likely dropouts transform themselves into high school graduates through the use of individualized learning programs in a small, nontraditional setting.

In fact, this year over 1,000 students, who were at one time identified as future high school dropouts, graduated from our PLCs. So yes, achieving higher graduation rates can be done. Will it take a lot of hard work and collaboration from all facets of our communities? Absolutely.

The stakes are too high for us, as Georgians, to wait on the sidelines for changes to be made for us. We have to hold ourselves accountable — all of us do. The future of our state depends on it.

Chris Womack, an executive vice president at Southern Co., is board chair of Communities In Schools of Georgia. Neil Shorthouse is president of Communities In Schools of Georgia.


Anonymous said...

I think the tenor of this article is correct. It's going to take entire communities, not just school systems, to attack this and MANY other problems associated with Georgia's dropout rate. For instance, in the Athens/Clarke County area, the community has found a link between teen pregnancy and the county's poverty rate. The community, as a whole (superintendent, school board, local government, youth-serving organizations, clergy, etc.) are working together to lower the teen pregnancy rate. I would imagine that one of the spokes on which they're working is keeping the teens in school. It will be interesting to watch and I think this merits the attention of all communities. Imagine if the DeKalb school board, commissioners, public health department, superintendent, employers, etc. worked together on the drop-out problem?

Anonymous said...

More vocational training and less emphasis on the idea that everyone needs to & must attend college is key!!! IF ONLY THE EDUCRATS IN CHARGE would heed the advice of many posters on this site and Get Schooled---COLLEGE is not for everyone, stopping forcing kids to sit through classes that they have no interest in, boring them to tears then they drop out..

Anonymous said...

We need to offer education alternatives for our children. Let's offer them tech schools and programs that have them wanting to learn. Also we need to show students the value of earning an education. With such high employment rates, our kids aren't getting jobs period and they know this. We need our state and local governments to come up with creative ways to get new employers coming in. Georgia's education system is in shambles and people need to wake up.

Ella Smith said...

We do need to look at alternative education routes like vocational schools.

The dropout crisis is a problem because students are not prepared when they reach high school and become frustrating to these students.

One of the problems we have today according to the literature is alternative means of certification of teachers. There is not data to indicates that these teachers are effective in the classroom verses traditional preparatory teachers.

We also are passing students on in grade school and middle school. All parents have to do is file an appeal and it is granted. So students are not failing. Students are being left behind by being past on when they are not prepared to do the work.

School officials must hold students accountable even through the appeal process. The students are being hurt in the long run.

Anonymous said...

Having worked as a teacher and an education consultant, I think that teacher quality in general is lacking, especially here in DeKalb It doesn't matter how the teachers came into the profession from what I've seen. Many of our teachers are not learners, so how can we expect our children to enjoy learning? Also we are not making sure our children are meeting the standards. We keep passing the children on. We have severe grade inflation and have forgotten that not everyone has a right to have an A or a B. They need to be earned and not handed out like tissues. All people need the basic skills taught in elementary school, but many of our kids have lost interest in learning, have forgotten how to think by fourth grade, and have checked out by the end of middle school after being herded into middle school with other overly hormonal teenagers. Our education system needs an overhaul, and it's a shame that the American people don't see this and fight for our kids.

Cerebration said...

The AJC has posted the ACT scores - here are the top results for each county -

Here are the top scoring high schools in local districts:

Atlanta city: Grady scored 20.2

Cherokee: Sequoyah scored 22.7

Clayton: Jonesboro scored 18.1

Coweta: East Coweta scored 21.1

Cobb: Walton scored 25.1

DeKalb: Chamblee scored 23.3

Decatur: DHS scored 21.7

Fayette: McIntosh scored 23.7

Fulton: Chattahoochee scored 25.2

Gwinnett: Parkview scored 24


No Duh said...

What's the highest possible ACT score?

Lefty said...

From WikiAnswers:
Out of a possible score of 36, the national average is about 20, so a good score depends on what kind of a student you are. Scoring ranges from 1-36. However, less than two percent of students score from 30-36. The 90% percentile is typically around 27, so a score of 27 or higher would be excellent.

Ella Smith said...

I agree teachers' quality is a problem. I just finished a big paper on the topic of highly qualifed teachers. However, the literature indicates some problems with alternative certification programs.

The push now is professional development. When teachers learn the students learn. Well, if you take all the teachers' planning time to teach them then they do not have time to plan which in return does not necessaray help the students. The teachers also need adequate planning time. I do agree to a certain point but I do think in some situations when administrators take teachers' planning away once or twice a week it is questionable as to the benifit. I think it a trade=-out.

Kim Gokce said...

I don't know about the affect of poverty in other school districts but I can tell you that in mine it plays a big role.

Some of our families are actually encouraging their kids to drop out to help pay the monthly nut. Very short sighted, yes, but in these situations they have a hard time envisioning beyond the rent or power bill.

With the unemployment rate being so high, especially for teenagers, this affect will likely lessen for a while but will return. There is little we can expect from the school system that will significantly affect this type of situation.

In more general terms, does anyone have the dropout rates by state say for the top 15 (worst 15)? The article mentions Georgia is in the worst 5 only ...

I found a list of the top 15 (worst) poverty rates from 2004:

# 1 Mississippi: 21.6%
# 2 Louisiana: 19.4%
# 3 New Mexico: 19.3%
# 4 District of Columbia: 18.9%
# 5 Arkansas: 17.9%
# 6 West Virginia: 17.9%
# 7 Kentucky: 17.4%
# 8 Texas: 16.6%
# 9 Alabama: 16.1%
# 10 South Carolina: 15.7%
# 11 Oklahoma: 15.3%
# 12 North Carolina: 15.2%
# 13 Georgia: 14.8%
# 14 Tennessee: 14.5%
# 15 Idaho: 14.5%

I like to see Southeastern Conference (SEC) dominate "top" lists but not this one ... I would be curious about how many states appear in both lists (poverty and dropout).

Cerebration said...

The latest from the US DOE says

Among the states that reported the 2005-06 graduation counts, Wisconsin had the highest graduation rate, at 87.5 percent. Thirteen other states had rates of 80 percent or more (ordered from high to low): Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, South Dakota, Vermont, North Dakota, Montana, New Hampshire, Missouri, Connecticut, Idaho, and Arkansas. Nevada had the lowest rate, at 55.8 percent. Nine other states had graduation rates below 70 percent (ordered from high to low): California, New York, New Mexico, Alaska, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana.

This chart shows GA improving from 58.7% in 2001 to 62.4% in 2006.

To compare your list, Kim - using 2004 numbers (NATIONAL AVG was 74% that year)

# 1 Mississippi: 21.6% (62.7% Graduation rate)
# 2 Louisiana: 19.4% (69.4% Graduation rate)
# 3 New Mexico: 19.3% (67% Graduation rate)
# 4 District of Columbia: 18.9% (68.2% Graduation rate)
# 5 Arkansas: 17.9% (76.8% Graduation rate)
# 6 West Virginia: 17.9% (76.9% Graduation rate)
# 7 Kentucky: 17.4% (73% Graduation rate)
# 8 Texas: 16.6% (76.7% Graduation rate)
# 9 Alabama: 16.1% (65% Graduation rate)
# 10 South Carolina: 15.7% (60.6% Graduation rate)
# 11 Oklahoma: 15.3% (77% Graduation rate)
# 12 North Carolina: 15.2% (71.4% Graduation rate)
# 13 Georgia: 14.8% (61.2% Graduation rate)
# 14 Tennessee: 14.5% (66.1% Graduation rate)
# 15 Idaho: 14.5% (81.5% Graduation rate)

Pretty much all over the board. Poverty doesn't seem to be the indicator of dropout rates that one might think...

Cerebration said...

However, race really does appear to be a factor --

From the Manhattan Institute (2002)

Cleveland City had the lowest graduation rate among African-American students with 29%, followed by Milwaukee, Memphis, and Gwinett County, Georgia.

Cleveland City also had the lowest graduation rate among Latino students, followed by Georgia’s Dekalb, Gwinnett, and Cobb counties.

Less than 50% of African-American students graduated in fifteen of forty-five districts for which there was sufficient data, and less than 50% of Latino students graduated in twenty-one of thirty-six districts for which there was sufficient data.


Could it be that even in the new millennium we still aren't offering the same educational opportunities across racial lines?

Cerebration said...

More from the US DOE - 2006 - the latest report

This indicator examines the percentage of public high school students who graduate on time with a regular diploma. To do so, it uses the averaged freshman graduation rate—an estimate of the percentage of an incoming freshman class that graduates 4 years later. For each year, the averaged freshman enrollment count is the sum of the number of 8th-graders 5 years earlier, the number of 9th-graders 4 years earlier (when current-year seniors were freshmen), and the number of 10th-graders 3 years earlier, divided by 3. The intent of this averaging is to account for the high rate of grade retention in the freshman year, which adds 9th-grade repeaters from the previous year to the number of students in the incoming freshman class each year.

Among public high school students in the class of
2005–06, the averaged freshman graduation rate was 73.2 percent in the 48 reporting states; that is, 2.6 million students graduated on time (see table A-19-1). Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia did not report graduation counts in this year.

Among the states that reported the 2005–06 graduation counts, Wisconsin had the highest graduation rate, at 87.5 percent. Thirteen other states had rates of 80 percent or more (ordered from high to low): Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, South Dakota, Vermont, North Dakota, Montana, New Hampshire, Missouri, Connecticut, Idaho, and Arkansas. Nevada had the lowest rate, at 55.8 percent. Nine other states had graduation rates below 70 percent (ordered from high to low): California, New York, New Mexico, Alaska, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana.

Cerebration said...

This is undeniable people. Georgia is 49th in graduating our children from high school. Many will defend their own schools - and there are many schools doing a bang-up job - but obviously we are not doing well at all for so many. In fact, think of how many failures it takes to pull down the averages to the levels indicated by the US DOE data.

Cerebration said...

I agree with your teacher quality comment, Ella. For example, Lakeside is home to a biology teacher who was just name Biology Teacher of the Year by the state of Georgia and is off to the national competition in Denver. Perhaps we should think about offering bonuses to transfer "highly effective teachers"!

Lakeside teacher wins biology award
By Greg Rossino

DeKalb resident Annette Parrott, a biology teacher at Lakeside High School, recently was awarded the 2009 Georgia Outstanding Biology Teacher Award.

The National Association of Biology Teachers presents the annual award, which has been given since 1961.

“Of course it feels great to have won the 2009 OBTA,” Ms. Parrott said through an e-mail.

“Teachers in general seem to get so much more negative press than positive press, even though we influence and are responsible for our nation’s most precious resource — our children.

“So any positive recognition for the gravity of what educators do, and examples which herald our successes — even if my name is not involved — makes me feel appreciated,” she added.

Ms. Parrott has been teaching at Lakeside since 1996.

Before her time there, she also served as a part-time instructor at Georgia Perimeter College, the University of Phoenix, Spelman College and DeKalb Online Academy.

“I have always been interested in biology,” Ms. Parrott said.

“Apparently, I have also always been interested in teaching, since I used to line up and teach my stuffed animals on my bed before school and used to assist my elementary school teachers and piano teacher with other students.

“However, I went to college with the intent on becoming an M.D. and did not decide to teach instead until my senior year of college,” the doctor added.

She received a B.S. in biology and a M.Ed in secondary science education from the University of Buffalo in Buffalo, N.Y., as well as a Ph.D. in science education from Georgia State University.

“As far as teaching is concerned, my greatest achievements are the small, seemingly insignificant ways that I positively affect the lives of my students that I do not even realize I do,” Ms. Parrott said.

“I know they exist, because years later when I meet these students by accident, or they search me out, they tell me about them. They tell me about how a sentence or a look has stayed with them years later.”

The awards presentation for Ms. Parrott will be given by the National Association of Biology Teachers at its National Professional Development Conference, which will take place in November in Denver, Colo.

Cerebration said...

Think about this: If you are aiming for a banana republic - wouldn't you start by offering inferior schools generation after generation to certain groups? Isn't the "deep" south poised to become (or already is) a banana republic?

From Wikipedia

Banana republic is a pejorative term for a country that is politically unstable, dependent on limited agriculture (e.g. bananas), and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, and corrupt clique.[1] It is most commonly used for countries in Central America such as El Salvador, Belize, Grenada, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. In some cases, these nations have kept the government structures that were modeled after the colonial Spanish ruling clique, with a small, largely leisure class on the top, and a large, poorly educated and poorly paid working class of peons, though it might have the (fake) trappings of modernity (such as styling itself a republic with a president etc.)
Frequently the subject of mockery and humour, and usually presided over by a dictatorial military junta that exaggerates its own power and importance—"the epaulettes of a banana republic generalissimo" are proverbially of considerable size, usually portrayed in satire with a pair of mops—a banana republic also typically has large wealth inequities, poor infrastructure, poor schools, a "backward" economy, low capital spending, a reliance on foreign capital and money printing, budget deficits, and a weakening currency. Banana republics are typically also highly prone to revolutions and coups.

Anonymous said...

A key contributing factor to GA's dropout rate is social promotion of students who simply cannot perform high school level work.

These students quickly become frustrated. Kathy Cox and the folks in the state ivory towers can write new "rigorous" curriculums until the cows come home, but the droupout sydrome will continue until the quality of elementary and middle school education is improved across the board.

And yes, teacher quality is a huge problem especially in math and science. If DCSS and other metro schools are struggling to find high quality math and science teachers just think how hard it is in rural counties like Dooley or Echols or Ben Hill.

I am curious whether the states with high graduation rates offer a comprehensive and quality vo-tech option.