Declining high school dropout rates continue to reflect on the American educational system. Dropout rate for high school students refer to the number of individuals within the high school age range, between 16 to 24 years of age, who have not enrolled in school, obtained a high school diploma, or achieved equivalency documentation when compared to the general population for this age range. National statistical data indicates that the dropout rate decreased by 6 percent from 15 percent in 1972 to 9 percent in 2006. A similar decrease by 2 percent from 11 percent in 2000 to 9 percent in 2006 also occurred.
(National Center for Education Statistics, 2008) There are differing interpretations of the implications of these statistics particularly on developments in the educational system. Some consider this a positive reflection on the educational system while others recognize this as the persistence of the problems. Regardless of the perspective, the relative dropout rate points to improvements in the number of people not enrolling or completing high school as well as an area for further improvement. Dropping out from high school has adverse consequences to individuals and the broader community.
On the part of individuals, majority of those who have dropped out of high school were unable to find jobs or engage in odd jobs (Stanard, 2003). Even if employed, there are limited opportunities for career advancement. Income would also likely remain low. (Campbell, 2004) This affects long-term financial security. On the part of communities, the dropout rate means more people likely to become dependent on the social welfare program of the government. This also translates into greater risk of involvement in alcoholism and drug use likely to co-occur with criminal activity.
(Martin, Tobin & Sugai, 2002) Even with a decreased dropout rate, it is important to continue addressing this issue by getting at the root of the problem. While the dropout rate has declined, there is no change in the dropout rates when considering all races. The racial gap over the dropout rate remained the same. (Heckman & LaFontaine, 2007; National Center for Education Statistics, 2008) In comparing the dropout rate among Caucasians and Hispanics, the difference or gap in drop out rate is 20 percent in 1980 and 19 percent in 2000.
Two reasons account for the nil change in the racial gap over the dropout rate between Caucasians and Hispanics. One is the census bias with Hispanic immigrants who have not graduated from high school included in the statistical data (Christle, Jolivette & Nelson, 2007). This gives rise to the issue of the evaluation of statistical measures and variables in determining dropout rates. The rise in Hispanic immigrants kept a high dropout rate for Hispanics even if the national dropout rate has declined. Another is school related factors that cause the racial disparity in dropout rate at the states and district levels (Orfield et al.
, 2004). This means that there are race related school factors at the local level that contribute to the persistence of a huge gap between the dropout rates of Caucasians and Hispanics. One factor is the extent of inclusion or seclusion of minority students in various high schools of different districts (Heckman & LaFontaine, 2007). Another factor is the lower socio-economic status or higher poverty rates of minority high school students in various school districts leading to higher dropout rates (Orfield et al. , 2004).
There are differences in the causes of dropout rates at the state or district level because of variances in the existing determining factors and the impact of these factors on racial disparity in dropout rates. State or district level studies are important in identifying and understanding the root cause of the racial gap in dropout rates. In the state of California, there is a concentration of dropout rates in certain schools. There are 2,462 high schools in the state but 100 of these high schools contribute 40 percent of students dropping out from high school.
Of this number, 25 high schools account for 21 percent of the dropout rate. The mean rate of high school drop outs in the state is 3. 5 percent and most of the high schools in California report a dropout rate that is lower or equal to the average. Of the total number of schools in California, 76 schools have a more than 50 percent dropout rate. However, there are 662 high schools in the state without any dropouts. This zero dropout rate in these high schools is due largely to the non-traditional schools. In the different high schools, the dropout rate relative to race varies.
(“One hundred,” 2008) Even at the state level, there are disparities in the dropout rate per school when considered relative to the varying racial composition of the school and other closely related school factors. As such, understanding the disparities in dropout rates relative to race requires study at the specific district level. The largest high school district in California is Kern County High School District. The district covers 22 educational institutions serving at least 37,000 students and employing 3,500 educational workers.
The school district ranks as the 17th in terms of the highest number of dropouts, with 1st as highest. A large number of the population in this school district is Hispanic comprising 68 percent, followed by Caucasian making up 44 percent. More than one-quarter of the population are living beyond the poverty line. (Orfield et al. , 2004) The racial composition of this school district provides an insightful locale in studying why there is disparity in the dropout rate between Caucasians and Hispanics.
This district comprise a good venue in testing the applicability of different perspectives on the reasons for the racial gap for high school dropouts and the identification of other reasons for the differences in the dropout rates specifically between Caucasians and Hispanics.
Campbell, L. (2003–2004). As strong as the weakest link: Urban high school dropout. High School Journal, 87(2), 16–25. Christle, C. A. , Jolivette, K. , & Nelson, M. C. (2007). School characteristics related to high school dropout rates. Remedial and Special Education, 28(6), 325-339.
Heckman, J. J. , LaFontaine, P. A. (2007). The American high school graduation rate: Trends and levels. IZA Discussion Paper No. 3216. Bonn, Germany: The Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA). Martin, E. , Tobin, T. J. , & Sugai, G. M. (2002). Current information on dropout prevention: Ideas from practitioners and the literature. Preventing School Failure, 47(1), 10–18. National Center for Education Statistics. (2008). The condition of education 2008. Department of Education. Retrieved April 12, 2009, from http://nces. ed. gov/FastFacts/display. asp? id=16.
One hundred California high schools account for more than 40 percent of the state’s dropouts. (2008, February 21). Reuters. Retrieved April 12, 2009, from http://www. reuters. com/article/pressRelease/idUS82976+21-Feb-2008+BW20080221. Orfield, G. , Losen, D. , Wald, J. , & Swanson, C. B. (2004). How minority youth are being left behind by the graduation rate crisis. Cambridge, MA: The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University. Stanard, R. P. (2003). High school graduation rates in the United States: Implications for the counseling profession. Journal of Counseling and Development, 81, 217–222.
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