Sunday, April 6, 2008

High School Graduation Rates Plummet Below 50 Percent in Some U.S. Cities

There is some really bad news in the area of American public schools:

WASHINGTON — Seventeen of the nation's 50 largest cities had high school graduation rates lower than 50 percent, with the lowest graduation rates reported in Detroit, Indianapolis and Cleveland, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report, issued by America's Promise Alliance, found that about half of the students served by public school systems in the nation's largest cities receive diplomas. Students in suburban and rural public high schools were more likely to graduate than their counterparts in urban public high schools, the researchers said.

Nationally, about 70 percent of U.S. students graduate on time with a regular diploma and about 1.2 million students drop out annually.

"When more than 1 million students a year drop out of high school, it's more than a problem, it's a catastrophe," said former Secretary of State Colin Powell, founding chair of the alliance.

His wife, Alma Powell, the chair of the alliance, said students need to graduate with skills that will help them in higher education and beyond. "We must invest in the whole child, and that means finding solutions that involve the family, the school and the community." The Powell's organization was beginning a national campaign to cut high school dropout rates.

I don't know much about the educational situations in Cleveland, Indianapolis or Detroit, three American cities I have never even visited, but from seeing the situation in Seattle I don't think the problem is a lack of investing. We have been throwing money at failing schools for decades and seen them often only continue to fail. We need to make sure that money is spent right and only in a way that benefits students, not bureaucrats. Treating each student as an individual capable of great things must be grilled into staff, and those that fail to do so should be fired. Not reprimanded, cut in salary but fired. Students must see that the adults that are supposed to lead them are held to as high of behavioral standards as they are. We need to promote charter schools and voucher programs so that urban students have a choice in where they get their education and control their own future, instead of being forced to have their lives controlled by compassionless bureaucrats who've never even met them.

We can't accomplish any of these things until we at least start treating education of American youths as a top campaign issue. The immediate importancy of this issue is so great that it should be at the top of the list of issues, and we should know each candidates' positions.
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