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Dropping out of high school is no longer an option.

June 11, 2009

Dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country—and this country needs and values the talents of every American. –President Barack Obama on education in the U.S., February 24, 2009

This post is about something that is (physically) close to home, Chicago, far from what I’ve experienced, and too close to my heart to not write about it: that is……

Education in the U.S.

About half of (53% to be exact) of all young people in the nation’s fifty largest cities do not graduate from high school.  That includes young boys. Young girls. Young African-Americans. Young Latino/as. Young people who come from poor (and sometimes wealthy) families. Yadda, yadda, yadda….you get my point. What I’m trying to say is that young people not graduating is not just because of their gender and/or race, but it could also be because of their sexuality and/or class, a concept called intersectionality.

There are many factors that goes in to keeping a kid in school such as: the child’s parent(s) involvement with their child’s schooling, their parent(s) income, their parent(s) educational background, etc. A minority student is four times more likely than a non-minority student to attend a high school with very low graduation rates (so-called “dropout factories”) and three times less likely to attend a high school with very high graduation rates. Many children are having families at an early age, making them more susceptible to discontinue their education.

Chicago Public Radio (WBEZ 91.5) just finished up a year-long series called 50/50: The Odds of Graduating about an underperforming high school in Chicago (Robeson High School). Some of students from Robeson write about their high school experience here. Each segment below (from ChicagoPublicRadio.org) talks about a different aspect of the school (follows different students, a teacher, the principal, etc.)—if you have the time, listen to one or two segments. What do you think?

“Boring” a Common Complaint Among Dropouts

Is it Robeson, or would Mykelle be bored in any school?

Posted on 6.11.2009
CPS Parent Wants Son to Get Second Chance

Mary Davis is trying to keep her son in school, but he’s already led a life on the streets.

Posted on 6.10.2009
Chicago Public Schools Student On the Streets Again

Demetrius Davis was trying to turn things around; his school says he didn’t do enough.

Posted on 6.9.2009
50/50: CPS Pilot Project Attacks Drop Out Problem

CPS administrator Paige Ponder takes on the drop out crisis

Posted on 4.1.2009
50/50: Giving Kids an “F” a Real Dilemma

Teachers at low-performing high schools have to figure out how to grade students who are far below grade level.

Posted on 3.31.2009
Honors Students Also Struggle at Robeson High

The curriculum isn’t college ready.

Posted on 3.29.2009
Teen Pregnancies Spike Drop Out Rate

Teen parents tend to drop out of high school.

Posted on 2.20.2009
The Education of Rodney Thomas

One Chicago High School gets a helping hand to stop drop- outs, but does it work?

Posted on 2.19.2009
Mr. Kuriakose: Teacher on the Frontlines

At Robeson High School, Soby Kuriakose finds himself in the middle of Chicago’s dropout epidemic.

Posted on 2.18.2009
50/50: Demetrius: At a Crossroads

Demetrius Davis has to decide between the streets and school.



Posted on 12.18.2008

50/50: Sarah’s Rising at Robeson

Amid a staggering dropout rate at Chicago’s Robeson High School, one freshman forges a different path.



Posted on 12.17.2008

Keeping Mykelle in Class

Robeson High School freshman Mykelle Wheeler has made a habit of skipping school. He’s not alone.

Posted on 12.16.2008
School Tries to Beat Drop Out Odds

We’re following Chicago’s Robeson High as the school attempts a new pilot program to keep freshmen from dropping out.

Posted on 12.15.2008
Mr. Morrow: A View from the Principal’s Office

Principal Gerald Morrow has faced the same issues that his students confront daily. How can he show his students that they can overcome these challenges just like he did?

Posted on 12.6.2008
Paige Ponder: Transforming the System

Paige is part of a young, energetic and idealistic cadre of administrators hoping that data and new programs will help reform Chicago’s struggling public high schools. But she’s up against a behemoth bureaucracy.

There are a ton of studies and resources about why there is such a large high school dropout rate in the U.S., but many have suggested different ways to solve the problem. What do you think about the large high school dropout rate? How do you think it could be solved, or reduced dramatically?

Why Education Is Important–My theory

Of course there have several times when you asked yourself, Why do I have to go to school? Many times that question is asked out of a small annoyance. It wasn’t until I was out of school (that is, now) that I value my education more than ever: yes, I learned about some feminist theories. I learned some other stuff too. More importantly, I learned how to write, but more importantly, many classroom interactions and assignments were about being able to criticize and analyze which can be applied to everyday life. I’m not sure at what point I picked up this concept, but I’m very fortunate that I did.

The high dropout rate is not about high school students not understand the value of learning—it’s about the teachers, their families, and their peers reinforcing education. Without all of these factors,

4 Comments
  1. June 12, 2009 5:52 am

    I think that, in today’s world, people without an education, at least the base of it, are helpless.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    June 14, 2009 9:26 pm

    If you’re actually getting an education, that’s great, but as a student I can say that I do nothing more than sit around and wait for classes to be over in school. The teachers don’t want to teach, many times they will just put on a movie for entertainment and tell us to be quiet and watch it. I haven’t learned anything since middle school..

  3. Emily permalink*
    June 15, 2009 11:25 am

    I agree with you, Anonymous, in that many teachers do not want to teach. This is due to poor training and less incentives for them to teach well, which makes students (like you) less motivated to actually learn. This is one of the many problems with education in the U.S. that needs to be fixed.

  4. June 15, 2009 9:56 pm

    I’m not really sure it’s fair to blame teachers when the fact is that they face a number of systemic problems. A teacher may put in a movie because they need the time to grade papers or prepare lessons; even the most dedicated teacher only has 24 hours in a day, and when they have too many students in their classes, are required to fulfill numerous class hour requirements in the name of ongoing education, and have to attend meetings etc., there are limits to what they can do.

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