I was shocked by today’s report that the high school dropout rate in California has reached 24%.
From the Los Angeles Times:
Deploying a long-promised tool to track high school dropouts, the state released numbers Wednesday estimating that 1 in 4 California students– and 1 in 3 in Los Angeles– quit school. The rates are considerably higher than previously acknowledged but lower than some independent estimates.
The figures are based on a new statewide tracking system that relies on identification numbers that were issued to California public school students beginning in fall 2006.
The ID numbers allow the state Department of Education to track students who leave one school and enroll in another in California, even if it is in a different district or city. In the past, the inability to accurately track such students gave schools a loophole, allowing them to say that departing students had transferred to another school when, in some cases, they had dropped out….
State data analysts were able to come up with a four-year “derived” dropout rate, which estimates how many students drop out over the course of their high school careers.
For the state overall, it was 24.2%, up substantially from the 13.9% calculated for the previous school year using an older, discredited method.
I can imagine serious measurement problems associated with issues such as out-of-state emigration and accurately tracking moves by undocumented residents. But if the estimate is accurate, it suggests that a huge number of young people in California are destined for a life of poverty.
Rather grim news, I’m thinking, in what it could portend for future economic growth and prison populations. And should be a wake-up call for out-of-the-box thinking about how to fix a badly broken system.