For years, Houston has been plagued by dropout factories – high schools where at least 40 percent of entering freshmen do not graduate. View the list of schools here.
The numbers are astounding. We’re losing millions of students in Texas. MILLIONS. And we haven’t been able to pinpoint the severity of the problem in the past because of schools that have been misreporting and inflating graduation rates.
Black, Latino and Native American students have only a 50 percent chance of graduating in four years. Fewer than 60 percent of Black and Latino students in Texas earn regular diplomas alongside their classmates. For Black and Latino males the rates hover just over 50 percent. (Read more here.)
If you live in Houston, your own personal future and that of your family is jeopardized by the astronomical drop-out rate. Drop outs are eight times more likely to end up in jail. We end up paying for their unemployment, job training, welfare, health care and incarceration among other things. The median income for high school dropouts age 25 and over in Harris County was $17,054 in 2005. We lose out on a productive citizen.
Houston needs to be an attractive place for prospective college students and businesses. Without educated students in Houston, businesses will pass up our city and lucrative jobs will go elsewhere. Dr. Stephen Klineberg says, “A city’s well-being will increasingly depend upon its ability to nurture, attract, and retain the nation’s most skilled and creative ‘knowledge workers’ and high-tech companies.”
By one researcher’s calculations, a 1 percent increase in the high school graduation rates would save the nation as much as $1.4 billion dollars each year in crime-related costs.
According to the Rice University Center for Education, one issue is that schools assume students are coming from stable two-parent middle class homes. Those in urban schools who don’t end up performing are labeled as lazy and unmotivated. In reality, many of these students are “parents raising kids.”
Researchers said, “They babysat, cared for ailing grandparents, worked to help the family, translated in doctor’s offices and stores, suffered physical and sexual abuse in overcrowded homes. These activities often led to late hours and poor school attendance. Then, students lost credit in courses and eventually left school.”
Another problem is high-stakes testing, which waters down the curriculum and pushes out creative, effective programs suiting the unique needs of at-risk students.
The Escalera Program by the National Council of La Raza is trying to address Houston’s dropout crisis.
A recent post at the Startup Houston blog addresses brainpower in Houston. You may look around and observe the city is full of amazing people and talent today. But what about in the future?