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April 01, 2008

Richard Florida

American Tragedy

« Tune in - Here and Now | Main | More Singles Maps »

Here is a list of urban school systems where the projected high-school graduation rate is less than FIFTY percent.  The overall average by the way for the nation's 50 largest cities is - get this - 51.8 percent.

Philadelphia Philadelphia City School District  - 49.6
Miami Miami-Dade County School District  - 49.0
Oklahoma City Oklahoma City Public Schools  - 47.5
Denver Denver County School District  - 46.3
Milwaukee Milwaukee Public Schools  - 46.1
Atlanta Atlanta City School District  - 46.0
Kansas City, Mo. Kansas City School District  - 45.7
Oakland, Calif. Oakland Unified  - 45.6
Los Angeles Los Angeles Unified  - 45.3
New York New York City Public Schools  - 45.2
Dallas Dallas ISD  -   44.4
Minneapolis, Minn. Minneapolis Public Schools  - 43.7
Columbus, Ohio Columbus Public Schools  - 40.9
Baltimore Baltimore City Public School System  - 34.6
Cleveland Cleveland Municipal City Sch.Dist.  - 34.1
Indianapolis Indianapolis Public Schools  - 30.5
Detroit Detroit City School District  - 24.9

The full list is here.

Ponder the implications of this from everything to human development, crime, social cohesion, and economic competitiveness


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Pardon the French, but...holy *shit*.


Can you say, vouchers... pls... at least to give some of these kids a chance. i live 3 blocks from the worst hs in dc... why is it even open? to send a kid there is to lower their chances in life even more...

let those kids out of those schools. vouchers/choice won't solve the entire problem, but will provide some immediate relief and a chance for some of those kids.

Farhan Lalji

As my wife (a primary school teacher in Britain) said, why are they spending so much money on their military when they're failing their own kids?


To put that nubmer in context, graduation rates in Canada are around 75%. Drop-out rates are at 9.8% and steadily falling.


Zoe B

Lots of those cities are creative class favorites. I'm gonna guess either they don't have kids or they're using magnet and private schools. Or the ones with kids live outside city limits and their kids are not affected by this.

Given that some of these places are full of creative types, maybe they could get creative and do something about this?

Mike L.

Congratulations, Chicago! 51.5% - For many years Chicago was reputed to have the worst schools in the USA. But no longer. There is hope ...


As my grandmother says, Oh my freaking word! The implications are really difficult to comprehend on many, many levels.

Maya Frost

Yes, the low grad numbers are truly frightening, but what's worse is that the prospects for many students who stay IN these schools aren't necessarily better!

One thing to point out is that many students are choosing to drop out of high school in order to study at community colleges full time. I'm currently writing a book called The World Is Your Campus: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands On Tuition, and Get An Outrageously Relevant Global Education, to be published by Random House in spring of 2009, and will be featuring stories of students who dropped out of high school in order to actually GET AHEAD.

There's a whole chapter I'm working on about students who have opted to drop out NOT because they were pregnant, failing, or in trouble of some kind but because they were highly motivated and not getting the education they wanted in their school. These students are diving into college classes at 15 and 16, doing very well, and transferring to four-year universities at the age of 18 as juniors. They are completely avoiding the SAT, the AP courses, the worries about GPA, etc.--none if it matters when you apply as a transfer student with decent grades in your college courses.

I've been collecting some amazing stories from students who have "dropped out" and catapulted ahead of their peers. Some
are even graduating at 20 from very elite schools--and getting merit scholarships that save them even more money (in addition to the savings from doing the first two years at a community college!)

So, I guess the good news is that not all drop-outs are going to be affecting society in a negative way in the future! Some are sure to be very thoughtful, engaged, self-directed, and yes, CREATIVE leaders.


More at http://www.TheWorldIsYourCampus.com

Gary Dare

On the main Globe & Mail site (which hosts a front-end to this site) blogs, one Canadian expat had countered the effects of the high US dropout rate (about one third, on average) by the fact that many people get a GED later in life.

Are there net figures that consider GED as graduation, thus upping the rate, and would that be as significant as that blogger feels it to be?

Maya Frost

Don't know about Canada, but in most US calculations, GED earners (at whatever age) are not counted in the graduation tally but as drop-outs, and those who leave school are considered drop-outs whether they are diving into higher education or flipping burgers.
(Thirty percent of GED candidates are between 16 and 18 years old.)

The Dept of Education (US) announced a few days ago that they would be considering a national formula for counting grads and drop-outs--right now, states vary in terms of how they caculate their numbers. That would go a long way toward getting a more accurate picture.

Still, the fact is that many homeschoolers, virtual schoolers, students who enroll in college early, and even those who are studying abroad for the year may be counted by a given school as drop outs for a particular year even though they may reenroll at a later date. It's a mess, really, and the reason why I'm not as alarmed by the numbers as many seem to be.

What matters more than high school graduation rates is enrollment in community colleges, universities, and vocational programs. Now, if THOSE numbers start dropping, we can get scared, but the reality is that more students are attending college now than ever before. Of course, part of this is due to the demographic bubble in the high school senior population, which is peaking next year.

How does that fit into the low grad rates? Well, it seems to suggest that students are fleeing traditional high schools--for whatever reasons--but not necessarily abandoning education forever.

Zoe B

Given this discussion and the one on singles (another posting), I'm wondering if a demographer could clarify/quantify the factors people have been mentioning. Any demographers listening?

Michael Wells

"When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school
It's a wonder I can think at all" -- Paul Simon

Lots of subjects for discussion here.

Does HS prepare you for anything, other than to sit still? No wonder some kids move directly to college. The earlier posts about Finland and the Italian village give some glimpse of what might work, but there's a lot of resistance.

A few years ago I had a discussion with Portland's schools superintendent about giving credit for knowledge. I was saying Immigrant kids should get foreign language credits if they were literate in their family language. He said demonstrating skill didn't substitute for the complete experience of a classroom. Total disconnect. What a resource we're wasting, millions of kids who could be bilingual international entrepreneurs are being encouraged to NOT learn a second language that they could learn at home and be fluent and accentless in. Imagine the advantage to American business to have fluent American speakers of Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Hindi, etc. when working in those countries.

Is a GED worth anything? Some colleges and employers don't accept them. But they're a route for those who can't or didn't finish HS.
• My father got his GED in his 50's so he could get a realtors license.
• My oldest friend dropped out our junior year and went in the Air Force, got his GED there, college afterwards, is now a successful businessman.
• My daughter's half-brother, a total computer nerd, was bored to tears and took the GED to test out of HS rather than just quit.

The Census says 85% of Americans 25 and over have completed HS. Is this or the 4 year graduation rate more meaningful?

We are indeed failing our kids, but substandard schools are only part of the larger problem.


Suzanne Morse at Smart Communities
blogs often about high school graduation/drop out rates. This week brought this entry:

Whitney Gunderson

The low high school graduation rates in some of the most well-known and important cities in the United States is shocking. These schools have been called "drop-out factories" by scholars and politicians alike. We all should know how important and influential education is in the lives of young people, and how that education plays a major role in fostering ability and talent of people in all stages of life, but sadly, the kids that do not graduate do not realize this and community leaders who are responsible for quality education either do not care about it or cannot change it because they are out of resources and good ideas.

Accordingly, Dr. Florida lambasts the educational system in the United States, which is very easy to do, in his latest book by saying that the "problem is that our educational system meets the needs of the old mass-production economy, which no longer reflects the realities of our creative age" and that our "school system was built to churn out conformists who could function well in rote factory jobs or rigid corporate hierarchies - not in creative, knowledge-based careers that demand innovation and independent thinking."

Ouch! In order to fix the education system in the United States, Dr. Florida says that schools should "better engage the teachers" by involving them "in all facets of the educational process" like "successful and productive companies engage their employees." This is a wonderful idea, but if it could be implemented as easy as it can be written, it would have been done long ago.

Of all the people in the world who like to talk about globalization and how it works, Dr. Florida is the best. He is the most authentic and was one of the first to see how the creative class will take the United States a long way into the 21st century. I would like to present a few questions and a sort of a challenge.

Why is there such a huge divide between the businesses who use creativity to innovate and produce and the schools that are educating people to go to work for these businesses after graduation? Dr. Florida has been critical of universities who lose focus on educating students. What are good universities doing that drop-out factory high schools are not doing? Are schools in creative places, like the Bay Area, Austin, Texas, etc., different than schools in other areas? If they are indeed different, what makes them different and what makes a good school tick? The "sort of a challenge" is this: Dr. Florida knows the creative class and its benefits better than anyone else. Is there a way to weave the creative class theory together with a good reform plan for public schools? If there is, I think Dr. Florida would have the most insight on this subject, since he has been involved with educational institutions his entire career and is the best creativity scholar we have today.

Dr. Florida, can we please have a series of articles and journal papers centered on the following theme? - Creative Education Reform in the United States.

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