Monday, May 29, 2006

High School Drop-Outs -- New Analysis Confirms Lower Drop-Out Rates

From Ash:

At first, I was just going to include this in This Week's Recommended Reading, but decided -- since we've posted quite a bit on drop-out statistics in the past -- that this warranted an entry of its own.

In a piece in this week's Washington Post, a couple scholars looked at the high school drop-out issue in a very different way. They used time use surveys to analyze how much time teens spend in school. Basically, their idea was that if someone dropped out, then he will say he's spent no time in school -- because he's literally not in school. So if we figure out how many kids say they're never in school, we'll know how many have really dropped out.

Recent reports have alleged that as many as one-third of kids drop-out. If those estimates of drop-outs are correct, the analysts theorized, then around 30% of kids should say they had spent no time in school. But less than that said it. Instead, most kids said they were in fact in school. True, they may be bored out of their minds and not learning a thing, but they are still there, counting the hours til Prom.

Applying their results, the analysts came up with a graduation rate of 82%.

At first, I thought it was an interesting approach, but I wasn't sure how reliable it was. But then, I started to give it more credence when I saw that their graduation-rates are almost the same as Census' reports regarding educational attainment -- even by racial breakdown, where the biggest disparities occur.

There are still problems here -- such as the fact that dropping-out isn't necessarily permanent. I don't know how they accounted for those who drop-out temporarily, or those who get a GED, etc.

But, regardless, it sure is interesting food for thought -- about the issue particularly, and, generally, how a new way of looking at an issue can radically change the results. I wonder what the kids over at would have to say?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, it was difficult reading the authors' blog at because the print was so small that I doubt little ants could read it....

Some kids have to drop out of high school because of circumstances beyond their control..they are thrown out their homes by parents or grandparents as soon as they turn 18 or a death of a parent forces the kid to work multiple jobs in order to keep a roof over their heads and so on....

I wonder if European schools have drop out students? They test students when they are 12 ? and the student is either sent to trade school in order to train for a job or is advanced to higher education with the goal of becoming professor or a career where a university education is mandatory.

7:40 PM  
Blogger Ashley Merryman said...

Well, on my screen, Freakonomics is the same size font as ours. You might try switching the display pixel count to get a larger screen image. Or just keeping reading our blog instead. ;-)

I'm sure European schools have drop out rates, but I haven't yet seen equivalent studies on those systems, since it has been enough of a challenge to figure out the US issue.

But, besides the early tracking of students via testing, the results might look quite different, since -- for example, the UK doesn't require any education past 16 yrs. old, so its high school equivalent sort of ends at what we would consider the Sophomore or Junior Year, with a separate sort of scholastic program for the subsequent years before university.

7:50 AM  

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