Number of Dropout Factories Drops

The number of U.S. schools with such poor graduation rates that they are known as “dropout factories” fell by 6.4 percent between 2008 and 2009.

In 2008, the nation had 1,746 schools with graduation rates no higher than 60 percent. That number fell by 112, to 1,634, the following year. From 2008 to 2009, there were 183,701 fewer students attending these low-performing schools, an 8 percent drop.

The data are detailed in an update to the November 2010 report “Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic.”

Last fall’s report detailed the change from 2002 to 2008 and found a 13 percent decline over six years, from 2,007 “dropout factory” schools in 2002 to 1,746 in 2008. The report was authored by the Johns Hopkins University Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance, and Civic Enterprises, which are hosting the gathering along with the Alliance for Excellent Education. Overall, the number of students attending dropout factories has declined from 2.6 million in 2002 to 2.1 million in 2009, nearly a 20 percent improvement.

Here’s the breakdown of the change in “dropout factories” by region from 2008 to 2009:

  • West—Down 12.5 percent (313 schools in 2008; 274 in 2009)
  • Midwest—Down 8.2 percent (269 schools in 2008; 247 in 2009)
  • Southeast—Down 4.8 percent (912 schools in 2008; 868 in 2009)
  • Northeast—Down 2.8 percent (252 schools in 2008; 245 in 2009)

Looking at the state-by-state picture, 18 states had a decline of three or more dropout factories, 23 essentially stayed the same, and nine had increases of three or more. Some of the state highlights in the total number of schools with a promoting-power ratio of 60 percent or less:

  • California (decline of 25)
  • South Carolina (-25)
  • Illinois (-20)
  • North Carolina (-16)
  • Georgia (+10)
  • New York (+10)
  • Ohio (+5)

Rural districts experienced a 15.5 percent decline in the number of schools falling into the “dropout factory” definition, according to the new report.

The report cites developments in the effort to lower the dropout rate, including requirements that schools calculate high school graduation rates by using a common formula, and that they set goals and meet annual targets.

While many states have made progress, the number of dropout factories and the number of students who attend them is still distressing.  And yet governors wish to continue to cut the number of schools (Detroit), increase class size to 60 students to a classroom (Detroit), cut educational spending (Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey) and in other ways depreciate the value of education.