America cannot afford the stiff price of a dropout nation

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Kenny Buchanan is 44 years old and dropped out of high school 26 years ago. He’s been paying the price ever since. He’s held eight jobs in the last five years and has never earned more than $40,000 in a year.

Kenny is one of 40 million Americans who never graduated from high school.

Dropouts face bleak economic futures. Dropouts are the least educated workers in the labor market and thus have the poorest job prospects compared to more educated workers. This means they are less likely to find jobs, and when they do find them, the jobs generally pay the lowest wages.

Dropouts are also less likely than more educated workers to invest in additional education and training, further limiting their prospects for securing well-paying jobs over their entire working lives. The difference in lifetime earnings between dropouts and high school completers exceeds half a million dollars. As a result of their low earnings, dropouts are more likely to live in poverty and require public assistance throughout their lifetimes.

The consequences of dropping out are not just economic. Dropouts are more likely to engage in crime and, consequently, are more likely to be arrested and incarcerated. In 2006-07, young dropouts were six times more likely than high school graduates to be incarcerated. Dropouts are more likely to experience teenage childbearing, unplanned childbearing, and non-marital childbearing, all of which can lead to adverse consequences for them and their children. Dropouts also have poorer health and, as a result, have a life expectancy nine years less than high school graduates. Finally, dropouts are less likely to vote and to participate in community activities.

The individual consequences of dropping out exact a huge social cost that all Americans must pay. The low human capital of high school dropouts robs the economy of skills needed to fuel economic growth and enhance U.S. competitiveness in the global economy. President Obama has set a national goal of the United States having the highest proportion of students graduating from college in the world by the year 2020. But we will never get there as long as we remain 20th in the world in the proportion of high school graduates.

The poor economic outcomes for dropouts translate into huge financial losses for the country, for states, and for local communities. Economist Cecilia Rouse estimates that over their lifetimes the nation’s dropouts from a single 20-year-old age cohort will account for at least $165 billion in foregone economic income for the country and $58 billion in lost tax revenues. The Alliance for Excellent Education has produced similar estimates for states and local communities. For instance, if half of the estimated 70,000 dropouts from the high school class of 2008 in the Los Angeles-Long Beach metropolitan area had graduated, they would have generated $575 million in additional wages over their working lives and paid an additional $79 million in taxes.

The increased criminal activities from dropouts – arson, robbery, theft, rape, murder, and family violence – exact tremendous economic, physical, and emotional harm on victims. The victim costs alone for crime range from $370 for larceny to $2.9 million for murder, while the incarceration expense – borne by taxpayers – ranges from $44 for larceny and theft to $845,455 for murder.

Dropouts are more likely to qualify for and receive government welfare benefits.

Taxpayers also pay for dropouts’ poor health. Dropouts are two to three times more likely than high school graduates to receive government-funded Medicaid benefits.

Adding the reduced tax revenues and increased public expenditures for crime, welfare, and health, economist Henry Levin and his colleagues estimated that the “average” 20-year-old dropout generates more than $200,000 in economic losses over his or her working lifetime, while an entire cohort of 20-year-old dropouts generates a total economic loss of $148 billion.

Dropouts are indeed costly. But the costs are not just economic.

The high rate of poverty among dropouts is transmitted from one generation to the next. Children raised in poor families are two to seven times more likely to be poor in early adulthood compared to children raised in non-poor families.

And the low voter and civic engagement of dropouts undermines our democratic way of life. As political scientist Larry Bartels points out, the growing economic inequality in our country produces inequality in political responsiveness and public policies that are increasingly detrimental to the interests of the poorest and least educated Americans.

President Obama recognized that every American has a stake in solving the nation’s dropout crisis when he said: “So this is a problem we cannot afford to accept and we cannot afford to ignore. The stakes are too high – for our children, for our economy, and for our country.”

Russell W. Rumberger is Vice Provost for Education Partnerships at the University of California Office of the President and Professor of Education at UC Santa Barbara. He also directs the California Dropout Research Project. He has written about dropouts for the past 30 years and is author of Dropping Out: Why Students Drop Out of School and What Can Be Done About It (Harvard University Press). This article first appeared in Education News.

33 Comments

  1. And our solution appears to be:
    1. Cutting school counselors and nurses.
    2. Eliminating home-to-school transportation.
    3. Eliminating all vocational classes that connect curriculum to the world.
    4. Eliminating art and music, clubs, and field trips.
    5. Having everyone take algebra in 8th grade
    6. Increasing class sizes and cutting aide time, so fewer adults have a chance to notice and intervene for troubled kids.
    7. Enrolling kids in multiple concurrent math classes when they are failing and struggling rather than getting them side classes that support the physical relevance of the numbers and giving them insight to the meaning of the calculations and theorems.
    8. Dropping special tutoring and pull-out programs to build literacy and math skills as early as the primary grades.
     
     

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  2. Agreed & it’s a sad past, present & future.

    The never acknowledged fact is that unlimited funding and top quality teachers cannot undo:

    1. Bad genetics
    2. Bad family structures
    3. Bad peer groups and neighborhoods
    4. A culture of crime, drugs and “bad is cool”

    You can take a kid from these situations (none of which are under the control of schools/teachers) and give him/her the best schools, best teachers, best study aids, best opportunity and he/she will still fail.

    We are blaming teachers for outcomes that are not their faults (I am not a teacher).

    Some day we will accept that we cannot reach all or even most kids and stop expecting miracles from teachers and blaming them for not achieving them.

    Maybe then we can start a realistic discussion of what to do about it.

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  3. Great comments by @el and @Reilleyfam. While I strongly agree that the high dropout rate is a problem and that dropping out is a poor choice with potentially devastating effects on the dropout’s life, a huge portion of this commentary confounds correlation with causation, which an academic should never, never do.
     
    Repeating my ongoing refrain, we need to rethink our wrongheaded and clueless notion that college and only college is an acceptable outcome for U.S. students. (I’m talkin’ to you, SVEF peeps, though I exempt @John from this criticism as I know that he understands the nuances.)
     
    All students who want and intend to go to college, and their families, must have support in every way to do so, all along the way. But we need to drop the insane notion that any outcome except college is a dismal failure and that anyone who isn’t college-bound must be branded and shamed as a loser (along with his-her schools and teachers), and given no other opportunities. No other nation promotes this unrealistic notion.
     
    We need a full array of vocational/technical/career options in our secondary school system. It may be that 26+ years ago, Kenny Buchanan DID have those options, so I agree that it’s not a miracle cure. But I have no doubt that there are many students who are unmotivated by our single focus on college and the lack of other options who would remain in school if it offered meaningful training for skilled careers.
     
     

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  4. el – agree with all the points you raise. The cuts to public education are heartbreaking and exacerbate the problem.  There is an approach to transforming high schools that is effective at keeping students engaged, in school, and on track to a better future: Linked Learning. This approach combines rigorous technical training with rigorous academics, work based learning, and supports for students. Schools using this approach – including Partnership Academies – have proven effective at reducing drop out rates and increasing college-going rates. Nine California districts, including Long Beach Unified, Pasadena Unified, and Sac City Unified, are systemically taking the Linked Learning approach to scale district-wide. While not the only answer, Linked Learning shows great promise to reduce dropouts and there will be a lot to learn from the Linked Learning District Initiative.

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  5. @ Reillyfam, thanks for voicing these unpopular, but valid, concerns. I contend that rolling back compulsory attendance (I think the end of Grade 8 is a suitable breakpoint) and scaling up adult schools, storefront schools, and other re-entry programs would help. I don’t agree with forcing students to stay in school against their will. Once they have tried to make it in the world without an education, they will come back with a desire to learn.
     
    @ CarolineSF, right on! My favorite examples are the diesel mechanic who starts at $35 an hour and the electrician who runs her own business, sets her own hours, enjoys the satisfaction of tangible work products (which we white-collar professionals do not), and bills $50 an hour. The CSU Monterey Bay or UC Merced communications graduate who had to take remedial courses isn’t likely to attain these income levels. Nevertheless, trade occupations lack social acceptance, especially among parents, and local and state taxpayers have shown themselves unwilling to shoulder the high capital and operating costs associated with  hands-on trade education. Last fall, I taught in a 1950s-era middle school whose expansive shop wing had been converted to regular classrooms to accommodate a doubling of enrollment. It was heartbreaking.
     
    @ el, I quite agree. More with less, eh?

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  6. Thanks, @Paul. One thing I would question is whether trade occupations lack social acceptance among parents. If you live in a high-SES community, the highly educated parents probably don’t even get it. (But if one of those families had the kind of kid who clearly isn’t college material but has the kind of abilities that would steer him or her toward a skilled trade, they will get it very, very fast.) Among the 99%, the opportunity to learn a skilled trade in K-12 school is extremely appealing.

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  7. The former principal at our local high school – while of course a champion of academic achievement – was not blind to the fact that his classmates who had gone on to be mechanics and plumbers made more money than he did and worked shorter hours. :-)

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  8. I have a teacher friend who shares my views on the wrongheadedness of the “every kid must go to college or be branded a loser” viewpoint. She tried to convey it to her principal and he acted like she was from Mars. Then at some point he was complaining to her about how much it cost him to hire an electrician, and she grabbed the opportunity to restate the point. This time he got it.
     
     

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  9. @ CarolineSF and el – And don’t get me started about misplaced teaching effort in the “academic” subjects! As a math enthusiast, I wish the state allowed me to tailor math to careers and integrate math with career education, instead of teaching everyone Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II, by which time the typical high school student is  (a) relieved to have met the graduation requirements for math and (b) so bored that he will never take another math course in his life.
     
    Math for construction/architecture/development — scale drawing, ratio and proportion, force calculations, area, perimeter, surface area and volume of complex figures, estimation, etc., plus the math needed to run a business, borrow money, invest money, set prices, and prepare a bill of materials.
     
    Math for electrical work — Ohm’s Law (equivalent to speed = distance / time, but much more relevant to certain students, and with all the same extensions, such as equation manipulation and unit conversion), voltage drop, circuit sizing, conduit sizing, the geometry of curves (for bending conduit).
     
    (These are just rough ideas.)

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  10. A math class in conjunction with designing and constructing a small shed would seem to be a brilliant use of energy.
     
    1. Kids see how math is relevant, and you can do some pretty sophisticated stuff, including load limits and geometry.
    2. They get outside and have to think and problem solve on the fly when their math is wrong.
    3. The school gets a shed.

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  11. Btw, I dont know whether this is the right thread for this comment, but I’ve seen a lot of mention of this concept that not every kid wants to or should be expected to go to college.
    While I agree that that is true, (as long as the ‘should be expected’ part is a function of their own decision), I do have a problem with that point of view from a policy standpoint. For example, some have mentioned that even in their very high achieving schools, there are some kids who arent ‘college material’. However, if you base that assumption on academic performance, then there are some schools where one might believe there are NO kids who are college material (and when you have that situation, instruction will/may be ‘adjusted’ to match that fact). I think its dangerous to assume that all of the ‘non-college material’ kids happen to congregate in certain schools. I would hope that that assessment is made on something other than purely performance. I would also hope that the ratios of kids who fall into that category would not vary too significantly from school to school (cough, cough). And for sure, I would hope that there is no such thing as a traditional public school where nobody is college material..  fwiw.  :-)

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  12. As one of the most impassioned critics of the “every kid must go to college or be branded a loser” notion, I totally agree with you, @Naviglio. Every kid in every high school should absolutely have the opportunity, and full support, to go to college if he or she chooses.

    That said, sometimes I think you have to be a current high school or college parent like me to really, truly get the financial issue. To those who haven’t been there, or haven’t been there in many years, it’s easy to forget about that concern amid visions of grants, scholarships and sugarplums.
     
    It takes a  high degree of savvy and skill to navigate the financial aid landscape, especially to do it without winding up in crushing post-college debt. Plus four years of college means four non-wage-earning years. (Of course there’s work-study, part-time work and night school. On the other hand, the “everyone must go to college” voices view anything but completing college in four years with a degree as dismal failure too, so those options are basically disdained. And they also require a pretty superhuman commitment.)
     
    Also, I think you’re possibly confounding correlation with causation here: “…if you base that assumption on academic performance, then there are some schools where one might believe there are NO kids who are college material (and when you have that situation, instruction will/may be ‘adjusted’ to match that fact).”
     
     

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  13. It seems more parents should become involved with thier kids decisions to drop out.  Maybe if the state required the parents to pay back some of the education expenses, they might become better enforcers of thier children going to school. If  I received a bill from the state, I would make sure that my kids where in school.

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  14.  
    The President is trying to reduce the cost of attending college. The costs have been rising at a rapid rate and has lead to some very large, and painful, student loans. One of the ways to approach this concern would be to spend more time and effort on promoting vocational educational through Community Colleges. They need to talk up the positives of vocational education, sometime called Industrial and Technology Education (ITE), and how it could help develop the skills that our economy needs.
     
    Most of the time when the politicians, the media, and school administrators talk about the need for everybody to go to college, I think much of the public thinks USC, UCLA, Princeton, University of Wyoming and this may scare many of the students and their parents. Tough to get in, very expensive leading to the now famous “student loan” problems, or they don’t lead to where the student wants to go.
     
    I spent 2 years on a California Taskforce in the late 90s looking at the condition of vocational education. We called it Industrial and Technical Education(ITE). One of the things that really jumped out at me was the fact that only about 30% of all the jobs in CA require a full 4 year college education. About 60% require some additional education or training. Viewing the whole education to work situation, it was obvious that the then current vocational education system of the late 90s wasn’t supplying the people with the skills that business and industry need. I don’t think this has changed much.
     
    The vocational jobs were, and are, absolutely necessary to our economy and many pay quite well. Community Colleges do not quire the grade point average that many 4 year colleges do, they don’t run up massive students loans, they get you into the work force years sooner and they can be a less expensive way to get some of the basic classes out of the way at a much lower cost before going on to the 4 year colleges.
     
    I’m sure when the politicians and media talk about higher education or a college education, they probably mean 2 year or four year, but I don’t think all the public understands it that way. I wish you would start talking about Community College Education in more positive terms, less expensive, leads to well paid absolutely necessary jobs, has, generally, lower entry grade requirements, and can get you into the job markets years earlier.
     
    I am, and have always been, an advocate of education. I think a better and more inclusive education, for more people, would help solve many of our economic and social problems. I think the current system scares off many students, and their parents, who are the ones who really need the help.
     
    PS  The TaskForce I was part of consisted of about 20 people from education and 20 people from business and industry. Our report and recommendations never saw the light of day. Two years of work went into the waste basket.
     

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  15. There is no need to market and promote community colleges to students and parents. They are full to bursting and turning away students already. What we need to do is *fund* them.

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  16. Kenny’s a dropout and never earned more than $40,000 in a year.

    I’m a college graduate who works full time for a state university, and used to work full time as a store manager for a corporation and I’ve never earned more than $40,000 in a year either.  My husband has a Master’s degree in Business Administration, works at the university and has never made more than $40,000 in a year.

    Certainly there are problems with not graduating high school, but couldn’t you have found a better example?  I’m certain better examples exist. 

    If he can make $30,000 a year and not have the college debt I have, he’s doing better than I am.  Living the California dream over here…

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  17. Having has a visit and talk with a 20 year old who didn’t get inspired in high school but is looking to take on a vocation – we definitely need more vocational schools teaching skills that  allow someone, boy or girl, to get ahead and made a good to great living or even have their own business.  I was a teacher but dropped out because of teacher unions and the fact that teachers do NOT teach the Constitution, either federal or state, do NOT encourage students to learn, and teach subjects that have no real relevancy in the world.  What we then have 20 year olds wondering what is going to become of themselves.  He did not come from a lack of inspiration but the now taught depend on the government type of mentality.  He now realizes that Obama has ruined so much and he needs to be more forward thinking and knows he will have a hard row to hoe with so little emphasis and teachers who knew how to teach but didn’t and, of course, those who haven’t a clue how to run a classroom and teach.  If parents do not encourage, if teachers don’t inspire and engage, and if the entitlement mindset operates, we can expect more and more dropouts who will wind up on the dole.  Each person must take responsibility for their education and give their all, whether they like a class or teacher or not because they will meet some of the things in the REAL world.  The young today have cell phones, computers, cars and little ambition to better themselves or the world and then complain about some ethnic groups that have been taught the value of an education and just do it!

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  18. navigio, What would you use to determine the skills to go to college?  The number of happy faces on their lunch pails, or maybe the number of “trophies” earned for being ON a sports team?  At some point, we must stress accountability, or pretty soon even George Soros could not afford all the tents needed while they occupy somewhere and complain nobody wants to hire them. At least most of the older homeless spell correctly on their signs  “Need a Job”.
    Maybe also, if there were not so many regulations, more people could start their own businesses and create more wealth.  I looked into it myself…I would only need $250,000-$300,000  for a bare bones start-up. Absurd!

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  19. kurt, i wasnt talking about criteria for college admission, i was talking about the danger of (re) creating a policy that actively excludes some kids even from the opportunity to prepare for that possibility merely because they fit a particular demographic that happens to be correlated with poor performance. That is why I mentioned the policy concern explicitly.

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  20. @Navigio (sorry I previously spelled your name wrong), in the bad old days that’s what happened, of course. A white kid from a high-SES family could be dumb as a tree stump and was still steered onto the college track, while a supergenius  low-income Latino or African-American student had to battle to be taken seriously or get any support for heading toward college.
     
    But the attempts to remedy that were ham-fisted, to say the least, resulting in the clueless current notion that everyone must go to college or be shamed as a loser and failure, and deprived of all other opportunities.
     
    In the reality-based world, the intelligent solution would be to provide the full infrastructure, resources and support for putting all students  on the college track if they were interested and willing, regardless of skin color, home language or SES — and to provide ample options for those who were not, regardless of skin color, home language or SES.

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  21. Could not agree more Caroline. Especially the last paragraph.
    However Williams v California was not all that long ago and arguably the state tried to defend just such a policy (not directly related to college per se but to resources that are a part of that opportunity) based on economic arguments. Lausd is even currently being accused of something similar wrt A-G I believe.
    As our public schools continue to become increasingly minority and lower-end PEL environments, there is a real danger they will be seen explicitly as the alternative to college track. I understand there are people who believe college is a bad investment anyway, but as you say the point is really about the opportunity provided by the resources. We fully agree in that. :-)

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  22. (Just by way of not being written off: I have a Master’s Degree in Instructional Design and I was a special education teacher for severely disabled, at risk, mentally and emotionally disturbed, and conduct disordered students for over 10 years. I develop eLearning now.)
    Anyone other than a teacher tried spending a day in a typical public high school lately? If you sent a fully functional adult into one of these places and told them to produce they would tell you they can’t work that way.  If you asked an adult to produce in the environment of a high school, rife with harassment, intimidation at the hands of uncivilized, untrained youngsters vying to assert alpha dominance in every animal sense of that expression, they would get a lawyer and sue everyone in sight.
    Public high schools are designed and delivered to manage teacher work load, not to engender life long learning. I went to one evening of open house and had to experience the student’s schedule as a simulation, with bells and transits and the teachers’ half formed presentations. I wanted to punch someone! And I have 45 years of practicing Grandma’s manners behind me.
    I would not be willing to take any kind of educational experience offered the way a typical California High School offers it. It’s just not conducive to learning and the whole enterprise is so overwhelmingly depressing. It’s like a dry run for incarceration. And don’t get me started about the poor teachers getting stuck as wardens in these simulations. It’s no mystery that the performance indices show a drop in quality from teachers.

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  23.  
    @ Tahiya,
    I agree with your comments and want to make sure that readers understand what a disaster California’s public high schools are.
    “Public high schools are designed and delivered to manage teacher work load, not to engender life long learning.”
    Enthusiasm for learning was cast aside long ago, but I wouldn’t even say that we manage teacher workload efficiently.
    My school is a typical San Francisco Bay Area public high school in a district with a decent reputation. I:
    * Serve over 165 students a day (my roll fluctuates as students transfer in and out);
    * Teach two different math classes;
    * Teach four one-hour classes in a row with no break;
    * Am given only 5 minutes to switch from one class to another;
    * Serve students continuously during my “duty-free” 35-minute lunch;
    * Arrive by 7:15 AM and rarely leave before 4:00 PM;
    * Spend one to two extra hours at home on weeknights, and about 12 extra hours over the course of a weekend;
    * Must make photocopies at an off-site facility with limited hours;
    * Am expected to post grades instantly, such that meaningless, minute fluctuations generate angry e-mails (“I AM GOING TO CALL THE PRINCIPAL” [all caps in original]); and
    * Still can’t do everything that I want to do to meet my students’ needs.
    It’s a wonder that my lessons aren’t “half-formed”, that I know all of my students (and friends  of theirs who visit my room) by name, and that I manage to respond cheerfully and calmly to students and colleagues.
    All of this comes at the expense of my physical and mental health, and my wallet. I received my current position unexpectedly, and again, mine is a decent district, not a distressed place like Oakland or San Francisco. (We even have a parcel tax and some recently-designated Distinguished Schools — a rarity.) You are right that professional, “fully functional” adults cannot produce in this environment. I certainly don’t plan to return next year. As a second-career teacher, I am fortunate to have other employment options. Even veteran colleagues talk of getting out. (“Veteran” in my school means a 27-year-old with 5 years’ experience, which is telling in and of itself: seasoned professionals simply won’t put up with the lousy conditions.)
    Voters and taxpayers have pared the educational system to the bone. They have gotten exactly what they asked for. Most of the students in my school exhibit a pattern of low achievement, but the few who perform at a normal or high level cannot fail to see our school as “a dry run for incarceration”.

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  24. Wow — it’s sad to see how it looks to a teacher. I’m in my 7th and last year as a very involved public high school parent in “distressed” San Francisco, and I have friends who are parents in many other SFUSD high schools. Teens are a challenge — there’s no doubt about it. One of mine — now at a good college — was not about to do homework and, at times, go to class if there was jazz to be played. But overall, high school has been a good experience for my kids and my family, and that goes for most of our friends too.
     
    I’m really sorry to see @Paul’s portrayal. That’s just not how it looks from here, even in our “distressed” urban district.

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  25. @CarolineSF, I’m curious which SFUSD schools you’ve been involved with. As California public school districts go, SFUSD is an interesting case because it still has a few high-performing schools mixed in with its many low-performing schools. A typical district is uniformly low- or high-performing. To its credit, SFUSD admits frankly that there are differences between its schools. The “Superintendent’s Zone” and the “balanced scorecard” represent two acknowledgments of the school quality (and to my mind, student effort) gap.
     
    My district exhibits an interesting pattern of its own: our elementary schools are among the best public elementary schools in our county (800+ API), but our middle and high schools are typical, which for this county means low-performing (600 to 700 API).
     
    I am glad that you have had a good experience. I struggle daily with the reality that, if I had children of my own, I could not in good conscience send them to school in which I teach.

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  26. Actually, SFUSD has many high-performing schools, and the number is increasing, @Paul. I’ve been a volunteer for many years for Parents for Public Schools-San Francisco, which has helped transform the landscape partly by bringing middle-class parents back to our public schools. There’s a long list of SFUSD schools that were considered absolutely unthinkable by middle-class parents when my kids were starting school in the late ’90s and that are now admired, popular and sought-after.
     
    I disagree that it’s a “student effort gap.” Consistently, the low-performing schools in SFUSD and the rest of the world are those that are overwhelmed by a critical mass of low-income, high-need students. The schools that serve a percentage of low-income, high-need students that falls short of that critical mass can function effectively.
     
    I don’t usually cite Gavin Newsom as a fount of wisdom, but: When Newsom was mayor, he decided to get involved in combating truancy, and (for a short time, anyway) got involved in phoning chronic truants’ homes and sometimes joining the principal in home visits in extreme cases. He said publicly that he naturally assumed he would be calling out lazy, irresponsible parents. But what he found was, in every single case, a family in extreme crisis. And that observation is revealing about families in poverty in general — those whose children pose the greatest challenge to schools. It goes much, much deeper than a “student effort gap.”
     
    It’s pretty normal for middle and high schools to post significantly lower APIs than elementary schools in the same district. I don’t know all the reasons, though one is certainly that middle and high school students (probably the smarter ones, too) are much more likely to decide to bubble in the Scantron sheets in a Christmas tree pattern or otherwise blow off the tests.
     
    My own kids attend/ed the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, which as an audition-admission school is not in the challenged category. I have friends with kids at Balboa, Lincoln, Washington, Galileo, Mission and Gateway (and probably more) (as well as Lowell, which also isn’t in the challenged category).
     
    Teens are challenging and their lives are often turbulent, but these schools are functioning pretty well. I’ll put Burton in the category of an underappreciated school that’s also functioning well and has some real assets and will probably hit the middle-class popularity radar soon.
     
    Oh, and one other point — if you look more closely, I think you’ll find that most high-poverty districts have some high-performing schools — again, those that aren’t overwhelmed by a critical mass of low-income, high-need students. LAUSD and Oakland Unified both have quite a few, for example. High-net-worth white and Asian suburbs are, of course, likely to have all high-performing schools (the Saratogas/Mill Valleys/Palo Altos/Orindas).

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  27. Great points Caroline. I would point out that I have looked at districts with a similar dynamic to what Paul describes. I cant speak for his district, but in the one’s I’ve seen that exhibit that pattern the change in API is a function of a few things:
    - increased moving to private school for middle school
    - significant increases in the rates of SWD in middle school (probably partly due to the above but for other reasons)
    - significant drop in PEL levels at both the middle school and high school transition points (again, likely a direct function of the first item).
    I think the extent to which standardized tests are willing to be dismissed is also relevant.
    These things create a vicious cycle that is almost impossible to reverse without significant community involvement. Thats what I’ve noticed anyway..

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  28. I realized that I sounded like I was contradicting myself. Obviously when students blow off the standardized tests (having realized, by their teens, that there’s no penalty to them for doing so), that IS a student effort gap. Or rather, maybe they make an effort to blow off the tests…
     
    My point was that overall, the achievement gap is not due to a disparity in student effort but rather to socioeconomic disparity.
     
     

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