Gob-Smacking Education Chart(s) of the Day
March 23, 2015
A gob-smacking statistic on high school dropouts was put forth by Bob Balfanz and Nettie Letgers several years ago that changed the debate about the high school dropout issue. Some 2,000 high schools account for half of the nation’s high school dropouts.
In the wake of that finding, Education Secretary Arne Duncan invested upwards of $4 billion in the turnaround School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. Disclosure: statutory authorization originally drafted by our own Charlie Barone. SIG funding goes to the bottom five percent of K-12 schools nationally, but approximately half of those schools are high schools. And while the results have been mixed overall depending on local fidelity to the most directive of federal interventions, the high school dropout rate has improved. Markedly.
If only a gob-smacking statistic could generate the same kind of reaction to the college dropout problem. Disturbing college completion statistics abound. Consider for example that 105 four-year bachelor-degree granting colleges have dropout rates among first time, full-time freshmen in excess of 85 percent. That’s right – 85 percent – and that’s measured over a period stretching six years from initial enrollment. Some folks may remember a time when you were expected to complete college in four years.
There are two disturbing reactions to that statistic you get the college dropout factory statistics from politicos and educators in private. The first is “what percentage of those are HBCUs?” Well, it turns out Historically Black Colleges and Universities educate about account for about 10 percent of high dropout colleges – not a huge percentage. The majority of college dropout factories are for-profit colleges. Eleven percent of college dropout factories are public colleges and a larger proportion are non-profit private schools.
The second reaction you get to the college dropout factory statistic is “well, those schools ‘serve’ high minority, high poverty students.” Turns out though that there are colleges that serve very similar students that get substantially better results. Not great results, but better than an 85 percent plus dropout rate.
In fact 9 times out of 10, a four-year bachelor-degree granting college with a graduation rate below 15 percent falls in the bottom of its institution peer group – that is similar colleges with students with similar levels of academic preparation as measured by SAT/ACT and high school grade point average.
The soft bigotry of low expectations has no place in K-12 or higher education. And the recipe for improvement remains the same: resources and reform, including accountability for results. It works. It just takes courage and fortitude.
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