About 1.3 million students nationwide drop out of school between eighth and 12th grades each year. They’re frustrated because they can’t read well enough to keep up, bored by their courses and teachers or just unmotivated to stay in school.
The implications for the nation’s economic vitality are “far-reaching and devastating,” according to a Harvard University report. “High school dropouts are far more likely to be unemployed, in prison and living in poverty.”
The same verdict is reached in other recent studies by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) of Princeton, N.J., and the Manhattan Institute of New York City.
“This is a story of losing ground,” researcher Paul E. Barton says in the ETS report.
Researcher Jay P. Greene of the Manhattan Institute, who has studied the dropout issue for several decades, says schools peaked nationally in 1969 with a 77 percent graduation rate and have slipped each year for the past 30 years.
“The trend is the same from year to year,” Mr. Greene says.
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings says the Manhattan Institute study also found that most students who do receive high school diplomas are unprepared to do college-level work.
“The report shows that two-thirds of our nation’s students leave high school unprepared to even apply to a four-year college. That is a travesty,” Mrs. Spellings says.
The Harvard Civil Rights Project study, led by Gary Orfield, shows a graduation rate of 50 percent for blacks and 53 percent for Hispanics, compared with 75 percent for whites.
The report, titled “Losing Our Future,” concludes: “The extremely low graduation rates of black, Latino and Native American males cry out for immediate action informed by research.”
In fact, the dropout rate for minority boys is more than 50 percent in many large urban areas, according to the Harvard report.