30,751 Young Georgians Already Have One Strike Against Them, And That Just In One Year

Nancy Badertscher and Kelly Guckian report in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution that 30,751 students dropped out in 2011, twice the amount previously reported.

The discrepancy came to light because this year the federal government made all states use a new, more rigorous method to calculate graduation rates. Under the new formula, the state’s graduation rate plunged from 80.9 percent to 67.4 percent, one of the nation’s lowest.

Part of the reason for the decline is that the new formula defines a graduate as someone who earns a diploma in four years, though thousands of students take five years or longer. But the AJC’s analysis shows — for the first time — how much of the discrepancy stemmed from a failure to accurately measure how many students drop out.

For years, inflated graduation rates helped state and local districts meet political pressures and claim success. But undercounting the number of dropouts did nothing for the kids who quit school unnoticed.

And this:

Under the state’s old formula, students who disappeared from a school’s rolls were often written off as transfers without evidence that they had landed in another school. In general, students were only counted as dropouts if they formally declared that they were quitting school, something researchers say they seldom do.

The new method takes the opposite tack, counting a student as a dropout unless the district can show that he or she enrolled elsewhere.

The new federal graduation rate formula measures students who graduate high school in four years. As the article points out some number of students graduate in more than four but those cases are nowhere near 30,751.

It’s important to accurately understand the problem before it can be addressed. I’m sure fingers will be pointed in many directions as people attempt to place or deflect blame.

There is no easy answer to this problem but we must take it head on. As a Brookings Institute study discovered, to avoid poverty you need to do three things: 1) Graduate from high school, 2) Wait to get married until after 21 and do not have children till after being married, and 3) Have a full-time job.

Two-thirds of Georgia’s students, including two-thirds of students in my home county Gwinnett, already have one strike against them. Will we come together and address this problem or continue pointing fingers?


  1. seenbetrdayz says:

    Offer more technical courses in high school instead of keeping up this dead fantasy that everyone and their cousins will go on to get a master’s degree.

    Someone’s gotta fix cars, broken pipes, and short-circuits.

    • caroline says:

      Precisely. I have dealt with this problem myself. My oldest son is LD and not academic in the least. Now he’s one of the “good” statistics in that I stood on my head screamed and generally didn’t know a lot of days whether I was going to die of a stroke or whether we were going to shoot each other. We should go back to the “technical” track and “college” track diplomas.

  2. seenbetrdayz says:

    #2 in the B.I. study is about as likely to happen as everyone going to college, I must add. Especially when you can get paid now-a-days to have kids.

  3. John Walraven says:

    I’ve always believed that we need a statutory method by which we determine the “dropout rate”. Years ago I learned that a report lauding an improved rate was achieved by simply not counting students who dropped out in 8th grade or before. Rationale being “well, they’re technically not high school dropouts.”

  4. I Miss the 90s says:

    “Will we come together and address this problem or continue pointing fingers?”

    That has been the $64k question for several of GA’s issues. My guess: rather than addressing the problem or pointing fingers the state will sweep this under the rug.

    Our state government is overwhelmingly conservative and their favorite solution to every problem is to do nothing or blame stuff on liberals (which have zero political influence in GA), ban gay-marriage, or put ‘person-hood’ amendments on the ballot.

    • caroline says:

      Well if the voters are worrying about nonexistent problems like liberals or personhood then maybe they won’t look at the real problems. Why should they do anything? Right now they’re getting reelected for doing nothing.

      What this is called is “lowest common denominator” politics.

      • I Miss the 90s says:

        It is quite the race to the bottom.

        Not only do they reelected for nothing, any attempt to actually address GA’s issues is grounds for electoral defeat.

  5. John Konop says:

    The most bizarre part of this education issue is how on all sides just play with numbers.

    Graduation rates. That do not count all the kids……

    Emory using creative math………

    Private and charter compare scores of their students who start with higher test scores and compare them to public schools who educate eeveyone with a lower macro scores………

    They lack of honesty from people in this industry makes the problem worse. You cannot fix problems unless you are honest about the situation.

    • Happy Face says:

      It’s always easier to spin an issue than to do the hard work and accept the risk involved in actually implementing a solution to a problem. As long as spin works, it’ll continue to be the preferred choice.

    • Harry says:

      Judging from the recent scandals – Atlanta Public Schools cheating by teachers and administrrators; the UGA Red and Black lack of candor and misuse of funds to overpay the CEO; statewide cheating on graduation statistics; the Emory fudging of admissions statistics and a couple of other well-publicized ethical problems in the past few years – just wow. And the kids and the parents suffer. The educators don’t even get punished, just continue as before or retire and collect their pensions. Some days I think we just need to clean house, have a yard sale, and start over.

      • John Konop says:

        The problem it has become part of the political system, winning is more important than the facts. And not enough people are willing to call BS on their own side. And if you do they just attack with bs and call you a non team player…….

  6. Technocrat says:

    Simple solution to Hope running out of money, make all sign a note that if they lose scholarship the prior grants will be converted into a non dischargeable Student Loan. Same with getting a serious driving infraction or other convictions. Probably enough to restore most if not all of cuts.

    Then all we have to do is make ALL professors do quarterly polygraph about grade inflation. Give lots of C’s get a bonus -too many A’s lose tenure.

    No wonder 60% of NON STEM grads are without jobs!

  7. saltycracker says:

    Gerrymandering the stats isn’t a liberal/conservative issue, it is a winner/looser, follow the money/ incentive thing both sides covet.

    Example: Transient illegals are counted for funding but since it is difficult to tell where they slipped off to, we can’t really classify those as dropouts.

    There ought to be a way of linking transcripts/transcripts transferred to assume enrolled or MIA dropout without all the “fair defining” monkey business.

    Cherokee Co. might have this right by making the effort but they get criticized for it as not hurting the numbers is more important than benefiting the effort, to many.

    • I Miss the 90s says:

      Cherokee gets criticized because the county is broke and the voters would rather lay off teachers and relocate students at added costs than raise taxes to ensure future solvency.

      It is full of right-wing fanatics who are so unreasonable that Tom Price did not want to represent it anymore.

      • saltycracker says:

        Cherokee’s educational improvements under Dr P, E-SPLOST renewals, new schools & the recent School Board vote would suggest the fanatics at both extremes are just crowd noise.
        The rational right wing understands the value of schools and educating children in a community. The extreme left prefers to make it an employment program.

  8. Jackster says:

    So, one of the larger offices up for grabs in November for my area is School Board (Gwinnett BOE 3). There are already a few licks against the BOE:

    1) Paying J. Alvin Wilbanks $410,000, with more to come, I’m sure.
    2) Subsidizing 2 Business Development managers for the Gwinnett Chamber from GCPS funds. (Since 2007)
    3) Charter school fight coming up with the opportunity to skew #’s, site weird budget stats, and raise the question of capacity planning, which the board seems hell bent on pursuing like we’re not in a recession

    And now graduation rates aren’t as high as they thought.

    Part of me thinks that GCPS was requried to report stats under a law that way, and now the law has changed.

    A good point, though: Even though the stat has changed, I still think I have some of the best schools at my disposal.

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