Down and out

Time’s latest cover story (published in conjunction with a two-day series on the Oprah Winfrey Show) sheds light on what may be America’s toughest education problem—the fact that 30 percent of American high school students don’t graduate. What drives the mass exodus? It isn’t overly-demanding curricula; 88 percent of dropouts report having passing grades upon leaving high school. In fact, American schools aren’t academically demanding enough. Dropouts frequently report boredom as a reason for leaving school prematurely. Adding to the problem has been some educators’ willingness to cover up its severity. Paul Peterson writes, “Most school districts report as dropouts only those who entered the year as seniors but did not remain in school until the end of that year.” The Time article profiled one city, Shelbyville, Indiana, which had long reported a 98 percent graduation rate because it counted as a grad any dropout who promised “to take the GED test later….” The agreement made by the nation’s governors this summer to report dropout rates uniformly should help, but only to cast light on the problem. Now we have to find some solutions.

Dropout Nation,” by Nathan Thornburgh, Time, April 17, 2006 (subscription required)
 
How Educators Hide the Sorry Truth,” by Paul E. Peterson, Hoover Digest, Winter 2006 (originally printed in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on October 3, 2005)