Sunday, January 27, 2008

High School Dropouts

The newest rates for dropouts from high school are out and the news is not pretty. In the nations largest cities there are lot of entire school districts that have a graduation rate of less than 60%. Many are even well below 50% Here are some of the worst:

Austin: 55.1% students graduated high school
New Orleans: 51.3%
Chicago: 52.2%
Albuquerque: 52.0%
Nashville: 50.4%
Houston: 48.9%
Ft. Worth: 48.9%
Memphis: 48.5%
Denver: 46.8%
Dallas: 46.3%
Miami: 45.3%
Los Angeles: 44.2%
Cleveland: 43.8%
Milwaukee: 43.1%
New York City: 38.9%
Baltimore: 38.5%
Detroit: 21.7% (almost an 80% drop out rate! )

Remember, these are not just a few bad schools singled out. These are the overall average ratings for the entire school districts in all the largest cities in this country. There were a lot more, but I just pulled out a few examples that were typical. Here is an article with more cities and more details: http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2006-06-20-dropout-rates_x.htm#grad

What is happening here? How are we ever going to survive in this ever more competitive world with all the new up and coming sharp kids learning all the new technologies from the best schools in all these other countries around the world, if more than half of our kids can't even finish high school? What's worse is that by all accounts, our high schools are teaching material at a much lower level than all other modern industrialized countries. In maths and sciences among high school graduates, we are now ranked 30th in the world. Well below average for the world.

In some recent examples where high school students in Brussels were given an American 10th grade test, they thought it was some kind of a joke. For them, it seemed to be a middle school test. So even though our hoops are closer to the ground and larger than everybody else's, our kids STILL can't sink the basket. And now, more than half of them won't even bother to suit up to play in the game at all.

If you are an average person shopping for a car, are you excited about buying a car that is manufactured in a city where almost 80% of the people couldn't even finish high school? And it's an EASY high school compared to all the other countries....

What do you think is causing this? Is it the schools themselves? Or is it some other factor? And how can we fix it? We know it's not that schools are underfunded because we spend more than any other country on the planet in education. It's just that other countries are getting much better results with their students for much lower budgets.

So far, immigration is filling in the gap. We are importing the product of the better education systems elsewhere, so those people can work for American companies and continue to produce competitive products. But is that the best long-term solution? Frankly, although we still have backlogs in immigration, the US is losing it's attractiveness to foreign workers. The backlogs are more due to inefficient processing rather than large numbers of applicants. Less people are interested in coming here now. Many feel that southeast Asia, and Dubai, and Europe are the places to be now. If the trend continues, we will lose our ability to function as equals in the world. We need to find a way to fix this.

3 Comments:

At 2/01/2008 7:39 PM, Anonymous igor said...

Please correct me if I am wrong, but as I understand what "we" call, say, LA and what the "LA school district" is - are very different things. I guess the "LA school district" is just a small core of bigger LA, occupied mostly by ... mmmm ... disadvantaged minorities. So are the dropout rates...


Anyway, thanks to technological progress, today just 10-20% of workforce are able to provide the whole population with all food/clothes/shelter/etc we would ever need. Actually, the China would be able to provide for the whole world, very cheaply.

So why would we need scientific education anyway?

/... playing the devil's advocate.../

 
At 2/07/2008 6:35 AM, Anonymous Val said...

Igor,
You might be surprised at how many people are included in these cities. It is not just the inner city core. Remember, these are the largest population centers, so they do have millions of people in each of these cities. There are still suburbs around the city, but the city has a lot on it's own And by the way, the suburban areas were also on the list in the same categories, but I didn't choose them, because the names were less recognizable. Look at the article and you'll see them.

Do you think it would be wise to surrender all responsibility for scientific knowledge to China? Or surrender all manufacturing to them?

I have news about this: China is not the biggest producer of manufured goods, nor is it the biggest exporter. China produces 10% of the worlds goods. They are in second place now (just recently passing Japan). The #1 country isill the United States who produces 25% of the worlds products.
Germany is the world's largest exporter. (US domestic consumption is huge).

Giving that leadership position away to others would not be a good idea.

Val

 
At 2/07/2008 8:46 PM, Anonymous igor said...

You are, of course, totally right - it would be UNwise to surrender science/manufacturing to China (or to anyone for that matter...)

But what can we do? With all this globalization the factories just go to the cheapest labor pool. And the R&D would inevitably follow the factories. And the science would follow R&D.

Is it not so?

Yes, Germany is still #1 exporter. But, pls, look at the dynamics.

As long as all we want is just more, MORE, MORE!!! consumption (bigger houses, tv in every room, more tv shows, etc); as long as we choose religion of "free market" over reasoning ... nothing can be done, i am afraid.

 

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