Great news Fall River, for every 100 students that go to Durfee only 55 of them will graduate 4 years later!
I listened to some of the reaction on the local talk shows and wasn't surprised to hear people screaming about the School Department, the School Committee, the Mayor, the state, the teachers and (shock!) the parents.
I'm not trying to make light of this, it's depressing, disgusting, disgraceful and that's just the D words!
But let's look at this a little more in depth and get a better idea of what's going on, shall we?
The Department of Education report covered students who became freshman in 2002 and tracked them through 2006. In Fall River there were 824 students and 4 years later 55.5% graduated. The report states that 6.4% were still in school, 2.4 were 'non-grad' completers, .4% were 'permanently excluded' and 36.5% dropped out.
So, let's do a little math (and a little rounding) and convert those percentages to students:
824 Freshmen Students
300 Drop Outs
3 Permanently Excluded
19 Non-Grad Completers.
52 Still in School
A little quick math will show that in my rounding of the percentages I've lost 4 students, but for my less than definitive study, I think we're okay.
So what this means is that 517 students stayed in school for 4 years of those students, 86% (446) graduated in 2006, and another 52 students are still working toward graduation. Another 19 students are 'Non-Grad Completers', which I will assume means they failed the MCAS test.
What this indicates to me is that students that stay in school graduate at a very high percentage. 86% graduated in 4 years and with 52 students still working toward graduation. The percentage of 2002 freshman, that remain in school and graduate, could go as high as 96%.
Okay, so we're not out of the woods, but at least we know that we're doing a really good job with students that stay in school.
So the question is how do we get more of the 303 students who dropped out or were excluded to remain in school?
A good start would be to increase the age when a student can drop-out with parental consent from16 to 18, but at the same time we need to realize that keeping kids in school by itself is not the answer.
We need to determine how many of these kids drop out for academic reasons and how many for other reason such as issues at home. We need to spot trends at a much earlier age and try to provide a support structure long before these kids get to high school. We also need to take a long hard look at what support structure we have in place and see if it really works. We need to really push to implement ideas like the two Horace Mann Charter Schools that were proposed, one for gifted/talented and the other for more challenged students.
Study after study, after study stresses the benefit of and the need for parental involvement. More has got to be done to get parents involved in their children's education. Perhaps the school district should employee an off site counselor that could go to homes of children where parents are unable (or unwilling) to attend school meetings, conferences etc. Perhaps more resources, in the way of tutorial guides and learning aids, need be made available to assist parents in helping their children. More effort needs to be made create a more active and more beneficial role for parent volunteers and parent groups. Parental involvement has the potential not just to benefit a parent's own child but to be a benefit to an entire class or to entire school.
We need to recognize that solving these problems requires both long term plans and short term actions. A failure to do both is basically ensuring the success of some at the failure of others. It is, after all, not too hard to figure out that a good bulk of these 824 students came from 2 of our middle schools during years when they were being recognized as under performing and in turn realize that students who struggled in 6,7, and 8th grades are probably going to continue to struggle in high school. We also need to realize that prioritizing education means funding education and if it seems that we spend more per student than suburban communities it is because we face more issues. Lastly we need to recognize in order to have any real success in reforming our school system that it is going to require that everyone work toward the same set of goals.