U.S. high schools lambasted as ‘dropout factories’


At a time when there's "no work for dropouts," America's schools are functioning as "dropout factories."

That's according to testimony that Robert Balfanz, co-director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University and one of several witnesses to appear Tuesday at the House Education and Labor Committee hearing on "America's Competitiveness through High School Reform."

[Watch the webcast by clicking here: http://edwork.edgeboss.net/wmedia/edwork/fc/fc051209.wvx.]

"Simply put, the world has changed and there is no work for high school dropouts. Nor are there many opportunities that will support a family for students who end their education after high school," Balfanz said. "To fully share in the nation's prosperity in 21st Century America, all students need to graduate from high school prepared for the further education and training required for adult success."

To meet this graduation goal, Balfanz said, the nation must find a solution for its "dropout factories," his term for the 12 percent of U.S. schools that produce more than half the country's dropouts and more than three quarters of its minority dropouts "year after year."

"In these high schools," Balfanz said, "graduation is not the norm and is often at best a 50/50 proposition."

Balfanz recommends targeting resources toward early childhood education and struggling students in middle school, and reforming high school so that a diploma actually signifies a student is ready for college or career training. He also touted what he sees as "good legislation," including the proposed "Every Student Counts Act," which would require high schools to keep a more detailed accounting of students who dropout out of school.

Also testifying was Marguerite Kondracke, President and CEO of America's Promise Alliance, who touted, among other things, the benefits of her organization's Dropout Prevention Campaign.