“Dropout Factories”on the Decline

April 22nd, 2011

Category: News

The number of US schools labeled “dropout factories”* declined by 6.4 percent between 2008 and 2009 according to the recent report Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenges in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic. 

In Delaware, the number of “dropout factories” decreased from 10 to 8 – a much larger decrease than the country – at the same time enrollment declined by over 4,000 students in these schools –raising the question of what spurred this welcome change.  However, as the report also highlights, the number of “dropout factories” is the same as in 2002.

Since the report does not provide school-level data, it’s not clear which eight schools are referenced.  And it’s hard to align this with the state rate because the report uses promotion power, which is calculated by dividing the number of 12th graders in a school compared to the number of 9th graders in the same school three years earlier. Schools with promotion powers of less than 60 percent (averaged over three years) are classified as dropout factories. 

Of the 11 “dropout factories” in 2007, five have promotion powers below 55%: Seaford Senior High (54%), McKean High (45%), Woodbridge High (45%), Dickinson High, (41%), and Campus Community School (38%). 

Schools classified as “dropout factories” in 2007 with promotion powers between 55 and 60 percent include: Caesar Rodney High (60%), Newark High (60%), Penn High (60%), Glasgow High (59%), A.I DuPont High (59%), and Christiana High (57%).

And 10 of these 11 schools (excluding A.I. DuPont) have graduation rates below the 2010 statewide graduation rate median (84.0%) – showing that there is some truth underlying this data. 

What can be done to fix this problem?  As the report highlights, there are communities across the country, including Baltimore and Cincinnati, which have successfully overcome some of these obstacles and offer lessons learned.  Some (but certainly not all) of these include:

·       Driving decisions with data – rather than outside factors- in order to make sound decisions;

·       Starting with the district’s youngest children is essential for long-term success; and

·       Looking to proven outside partners to add capacity rather than isolating themselves.

Across Delaware, the state, districts, and the Rodel Foundation are working vigorously to put some of these structures in place – ranging from a statewide data infrastructure, building the capacity of early-childhood providers, or taking educators outside the state to experience what’s possible.  As this work moves forward, we hope to work with stakeholders to successfully implement these practices in our schools and continue our upward trajectory of providing all students access to an excellent education.

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Brett Turner