The Vanishing Class: Why Does High School Fail So Many?

Mitchell Landsberg:

On a September day 4 1/2 years ago, nearly 1,100 ninth-graders — a little giddy, a little scared — arrived at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys. They were fifth-generation Americans and new arrivals, straight arrows and gangbangers, scholars and class clowns.
On a radiant evening last June, 521 billowing figures in royal blue robes and yellow-tasseled mortarboards walked proudly across Birmingham’s football field, practically floating on a carpet of whoops and shouts and blaring air horns, to accept their diplomas.
It doesn’t take a valedictorian to do the math: Somewhere along the way, Birmingham High lost more than half of the students who should have graduated.
It is a crucial question, not just for Birmingham but for all American schools.
High school dropouts lead much harder lives, earn far less money and demand vastly more public assistance than their peers who graduate.

Lucy Mathiak posted MMSD dropout data, including those who showed high achievement during their elementary years.

One thought on “The Vanishing Class: Why Does High School Fail So Many?”

  1. Did anyone else read far enough in that (very long) article, to hear that one of the things they are hoping will make a big difference is the development of “small learning communities”? But it sounds like theirs will each concentrate on a smaller interest area that can try to get those kids involved enough to keep working. For example, communities that focus on journalism, performance arts, technology, etc.
    This isn’t even a bad school, yet they lose way more than the district admits to dropping out (even when you do try to account for kids from the original 1100 who moved schools, went to a technical school, are in home study courses, etc.). IN my own experience, almost 25 years ago, a year-and-a-half AFTER I had transferred to a private school at the end of middle school, our local high school called my mom and dad during the day in November to tell them I was not at school that day, and were they aware that I had been skipping a lot lately. They also failed to identify themselves immediately, other than “calling from school”, and nearly gave my mom a heart attack when they asked her if she was “aware that your daughter is not in school today”. I too, grew up in a good district, in a state known for quality education, and that was over 20 years ago already. The districts can’t even keep track of the students they do still have, they have no idea what happened to the ones who left.

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