Friday, October 2, 2009

Triage for high school 'dropout factories'

The nonprofit Alliance for Excellent Education called this week for policymakers to do "legislative triage" on low-performing schools they dub dropout factories. Those are schools that represent slightly more than 10 percent of the nation's high schools, yet they produce more than half of the nation's dropouts, the Alliance said.

In a brief released Thursday, the Alliance said data from Johns Hopkins University and calculations by the Alliance show there are 79 dropout factories in North Carolina alone, representing 21.2 percent of high schools and educating 20.1 percent of high school students. With the nation in the midst of a dropout crisis that costs more than $335 billion in lost wages for each class of dropouts nationwide, the Alliance says lawmakers must devote attention to the lowest-performing high schools and immediately improve or replace the most severely “injured” schools.

“When emergency medical personnel arrive at an accident scene, they immediately deliver treatment to the most severely injured, said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “Similarly, the nation must focus its attention on the lowest-performing schools with the largest number of ‘victims’ in the national dropout crisis. The fact that these schools are so widespread and contribute so greatly to the national dropout crisis dictates making them an essential focus of any federal effort to improve the graduation rate.”

Contrary to a common misconception, not all dropout factories are located in urban areas - half are located outside of city limits in suburbs, small towns, or rural areas. There are nearly 2,000 dropout factories in the United States, which educate 15.7 percent of all high school students. The brief, Prioritizing the Nation’s Dropout Factories: The Need for Federal Policy That Targets the Lowest-Performing High Schools, calls on federal lawmakers to take every available opportunity to address this issue. It specifically cites three upcoming opportunities to address this national problem:

1) The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: Federal policymakers should distribute stimulus funds in a way that would enable and support states’ and districts’ efforts to address schools with abysmally low graduation rates;
2) The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA): Federal policymakers should make reauthorizing ESEA a priority and ensure that it targets needed resources and attention towards the improvement of dropout factories in a way that the current version does not; and
3) The Budget and Appropriations Process: Federal policymakers should ensure a steady and significant stream of federal funding that is targeted towards improving these schools


Jim said...

Bob Wise says "When emergency medical personnel arrive at an accident scene, they immediately delever treatment to the most severely injured." Not true, Mr. Wise. "Triage" consists of separating the injured into three groups: (1) those whose injuries are slight and whose treatment can be deferred, (2) those whose injuries are severe but who can be saved by immediate treatment, and (3) those whose injuries are SO severe that treatment would be ineffectual (and are, therefore, passed over in favor of treating those in category (2). Apply this standard to schools and you might get a different read on things.