High dropout rate has high costs

Low educational attainment has a high cost, writes RiShawn Biddle on Dropout Nation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest report, the median annual income for a high school dropout is $10,996. That’s 60 percent less than workers with some college education and 74 percent less than bachelor’s degree grads.

Young men lag in nearly every educational indicator except math, he adds.

In the Dropout Nation podcast, Biddle argues that President Obama’s $450 billion stimulus plan, which includes $60 billion for “allegedly avoiding teacher layoffs and fixing up school buildings,” will do little for poorly educated jobless Americans.

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  1. Certainly, low educational achievement has high costs. However, giving HS diplomas to kids who are functionally illiterate and innumerate also has high costs, as does the admission into college of kids who don’t have the knowledge and skills to do real college-level work. Getting an education, in k-12 and beyond, requires real effort and too many schools have stopped requiring effort. As an educator relative used to say, “education is an active process, not a passive one” and that seems to be ignored in the push to make school “fun” and “relevant to kids’ everyday lives.”

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    Is it the lack of a HS sheepskin that causes the difference, or is it that lack of whatever it takes to get a HS sheepskin that causes the difference? IOW, if we could drag the kid through school by the throat, with undeserved passes, one-on-one tutoring, financial rewards for showing up, financial rewards for not assaulting teachers and classmates, ignoring major social clangers, and whatever else it takes, would we find a massive improvement?
    Me either.

  3. Stacy in NJ says:

    Richard has it right.

    We have two fundamental problems. We have a class of individuals who don’t value the free public education they are “entitled” to. And, we have a system that’s invested in perpetuating itself whether or not it serves the public interest.

    The underclass throws away with both hands something that millions of people across the world can only dream about having access to. Our public schools exist in large part as employment opportunities for the working and middle classes and as holding pens for the young and undisciplined.

    We need a radically different approach to education, particularly for the lower and underclasses. Our current system is designed for the middle class and affluent. The core standards for high graduation are irrelevant in preparing a significant chunk of the population for their adult lives.

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      We need to do away with the comprehensive high school for all. Allow a basic skills certificate at the 8th grade level that actually measures basic skills and then apprenticeships, internships, technical job skills training. Not everyone wants to go to college. Give them access to real education in the 3 R’s at the lower grade levels then a plethora of job skills training opportunities after the age of 12,14 or 16.

    • Deirdre Mundy says:

      Exactly. And it can’t JUST be “race” or “poverty” that’s behind this, because the children of poor African immigrants work their butts off and get ahead (while their parents lament the lazy americans who throw free education away.) It can’t even be the “poor parents need to work long hours and so can’t be there for their kids” because the same immigrant parents are working multiple jobs to pay for things like tutors for their kids or to send money back home to bring more family over.

      So we’re back to culture– we have a subculture in our country that shuns “middle class values” like working hard, showing up even when you’re not in the mood, education, punctuality, politeness, respect for others and their property (even as they demand it for themselves), reverence, helpfulness, etc. etc. We also have an education system that demands that we cater to and celebrate this subculture, instead of trying to change it.

      What we really need is something like a “Boy Scouts Charter School.” Because these values, the ones that help kids succeed and have a better life, are NOT inborn. They’re also not racially or economically based (as the African immigrants clearly prove). Culture has to be transmitted by the parents, and when you’ve had a several-generations-long break from a healthy culture, someone else has to step in and transmit it. This is where the schools (with the exception of some charters) are abdicating responsibility, I think.

      It seems like it’s mostly the left side of the spectrum that argues that “middle-class values” hold people back and force them to submit to “the man.” Usually it’s also people who grew up in a privileged environment, where money and power meant that they COULD get away with being rude, disruptive, lazy, etc. and not suffer the natural consequences of their actions.

      On my more cynical days, I sometimes wonder if the whole show of respect for ghetto culture is just a limosine lilberal’s way of trying to keep poor black children in their places so they don’t taint the educational institutions and workplaces of the upper classes with their inferior blood– sort of a neo-eugenics— since the law says that they can’t physically sterilize the “undesirables”, they just economically sterilize them instead.

      (And it’s not that the kids’ parents don’t WANT a better future for their kids– it’s that the culture has been broken for so many generations that THEY don’t know how to teach the kids these values– you can’t pass on something that you yourself never had to begin with!)

      Anyway, so that’s my proposal to rectify the dropout problem…. Boy Scout charter schools starting in Kindergarten.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    When I was in HS, I took college-track chem and physics. I got a degree in psychology–needed a degree for OCS and the major didn’t matter–and my HS prep helped me with the required science for non {science} majors.
    I think the science the HS had for non-college track is more practically useful. What we called, scornfully, “cookbook chemistry” had its uses.
    Following science-related issues these days, (AGW, SDI) is not, from what I can tell, made easier by the college-track HS science courses I took.
    Hate to say it because I hate stat, but a grounding in sampling, probability, looking for unrelated variables, would be the best thing. Keep others from putting you on by saying “studies show….”.