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Los Angeles H.S. Dropout Solutions

High school dropouts start in middle school. There are solutions we can each help solve in our own neighborhoods.

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Students are our tomorrow...and we are their today.

I've been interested in public school education for a long time. It stems from a very early situation in my life in which my father removed my oldest brother and sister from school in their middle school years -- based on his philosophical and religious principles.

My interest continued as I struggled through the ensuing family challenges...too numerous to discuss here. And it continued as my husband and I put ourselves through college -- one excruciatingly expensive course at a time...continuing into our parenting years.

And then that interest expanded as our son went through the public schools, a year at a private school because the public schools were failing him -- and two years at a special magnet school for gifted and talented students.

And then the challenge of paying for a college education during the times when poverty was about the only way talented students could get help with college "scholarships".

What a broken system! The teachers and administrators I meet are good people, have good intentions, but the system is so convoluted that it's no wonder that almost half of our Los Angeles students drop out.

I empathize with everybody involved -- especially the students caught in a war among so many players.

The following excerpt based on a study of Los Angeles dropout rates points at several practical solutions. And those solutions MATTER to every business person in our region...our country...and our world. These are the workers and leaders of our old age. These are the future doctors who will do open heart surgery on us. And drill our natural gas wells. And install solar panels on our roofs. They are our tomorrow...and we are their today.

What can you do to help solve this problem of dropping out of school in your neighborhood? How can you help just one student? Then two. Then two dozen. Then your city's youth?

How can you use your skills at math, at parenting, at career development...at caring about your community...to make your future more secure?


Graduation rates declining in L.A. Unified despite higher enrollment, study finds

By Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
June 21, 2008

The latest study of Los Angeles Unified School District was released in June, 2008 by the California Dropout Research Project at UC Santa Barbara. Perhaps the most in-depth study ever done of Los Angeles dropouts, it examined individual student transcripts for the class that began ninth grade in September 2001 and should have graduated in June 2005.

The study concluded that the low graduation rate for L.A. Unified can be explained in large measure by the quality of students' middle school experience and the quality of teachers at their high schools.

"We've learned from this that middle school is just hugely important," said Oakes, who runs UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education & Access.

It's the SYSTEM, Folks!

The study found that differences among schools -- for instance, the percentage of highly qualified teachers, the percentage of English learners and the status of the school as a magnet -- played a stronger role in predicting whether a student would graduate than "student factors," such as race and socioeconomic status.

Solution: Magnet Schools Graduate 75% of Students vs. 45%

Magnet schools had a major effect on success. Nearly three-quarters of the students attending an L.A. Unified magnet high school graduated on time, compared with just 45% of those who didn't.

Magnet schools typically offer specialized, theme-based instruction and were mandated by a court order to attract students of different races.

Solution: Algebra Success in Middle School

Debra Duardo, the director of dropout prevention and recovery for Los Angeles Unified, said there were no surprises in the new data, and the dropout project study confirmed what district officials have assumed about the barriers that keep students from graduating. For instance, as others have done previously, the researchers pointed to algebra as a tripwire for many students. Seventy percent of students who passed Algebra 1 by the end of ninth grade went on to graduate on time. But the majority of students did not pass it in eighth or ninth grades, and roughly two-thirds of them failed to graduate on time.

Solution: Don't change schools in Middle or High School

The study found that students who changed schools during either middle or high school had much lower graduation rates, including students who switched between the sixth and seventh grades.

Solution: Keep Students on Track After Normal Graduation Dates

She also said the study overlooked the district's recent success in keeping students in school, and on track to graduate, after they miss their normal graduation date.

Exit Exam Causes More Dropouts?

The high school exit exam, often referred to by its acronym, CAHSEE, became a requirement for a diploma beginning with seniors who graduated in 2006. State and local officials widely agreed that it was the most likely cause for a decline in graduates.

John Rogers, a UCLA professor who has studied the exit exam's effect on graduation rates, said he believes the state has downplayed its impact. The exam will hit the class of 2008 especially hard, he said, because for the first time, special education students had to pass the test.

"In 2008, far fewer students will graduate than probably any year over the last 25 years," Rogers said.

Read more at the source: LA TIMES



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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