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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: dropouts

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August 14, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Study: Dropout risk goes up with higher math/science hurdle

Nancy Ohanian / Op Art

Nancy Ohanian / Op Art

The decades-long push to boost the number of math and science classes high-school students must take to graduate has raised a question: Will students who already are struggling to meet the current requirements drop out if the bar is even higher?

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis recently suggested that the answer is yes.

Their study, published in the June/July issue of the journal Educational Researcher found that students were more likely to drop out of high school if they had to pass six math/science classes to graduate (11.4 percent dropout rate) than if they had to pass two (8.9 percent dropout rate).

“I think our findings highlight the need to anticipate there may be unintended consequences, especially when there are broad mandates that, in effect, make high school coursework harder,” said one of the study’s authors, Andrew D. Plunk in an article about the study published by the university.

African-Americans and Hispanics were especially affected, he wrote.


Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: dropouts, graduation requirements, math

March 18, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Dropouts build futures with hammer, nails and job skills

Courtesy YouthBuild

Courtesy YouthBuild

Six months ago, the future looked bleak for 18-year-old Esequiel Sandoval. He had dropped out of Highline High School, believing that he lacked the credits to graduate with his class, and bounced between several part-time jobs — McDonald’s, house-painting. Whatever might net him a few dollars.

But next week, he will graduate from YouthCare’s YouthBuild construction apprenticeship program — with his high-school diploma, a carpenter certification and the chance to earn starting wages of about $21 per hour.

“It’s a huge turnaround for me,” said Sandoval, who is awaiting the birth of his first child. “If I wasn’t in this program, I probably wouldn’t be doing anything.”

All of the 125 young people who have been through the Seattle-area program during the past five years could say the same. But amidst the thundering din surrounding education reform, most of the racket focuses on sending more young people to college. Pathways for success outside the classroom earn only a rare mention.


Comments | More in News | Topics: dropouts, YouthBuild, YouthCare

March 6, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Dropout program in Kent wins national recognition

Marlon Harris visits the iGrad classroom in Kent where he earned his GED last year. He worked closely with tutor Connie Moriarty, left, and teacher Karna Cristina. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times

Marlon Harris visits the iGrad classroom in Kent where he earned his GED last year. He worked closely with tutor Connie Moriarty, left, and teacher Karna Cristina. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times

The 156 dropouts who have earned diplomas and GED certificates through the unlikely-looking iGrad program know well what a powerful opportunity Kent schools have provided. Each week, they ducked into a down-at-the-heels shopping mall for no-cost online courses that provided them a powerful leg up.

In January, The Seattle Times profiled iGrad as part of its yearlong look at solutions in education, and on Wednesday the National School Boards Association further confirmed the program’s impact with a Grand Prize Magna Award.

The honor recognizes districts making bold moves to improve public education.

Indeed, since iGrad began two years ago, its enrollment has surged. To date, more than 560 young dropouts — many of them from districts outside of Kent — have signed on to complete high school and move onto community college through its online-education courses.


Comments | More in News | Topics: dropouts, igrad

January 23, 2014 at 11:42 AM

Guests: New GED test fails to measure skills that matter most

America’s largest high school is not a building but a test. The General Educational Development test is a seven-hour exam that allows high school dropouts to show they are equivalent to high school graduates. GED certificates account for 12 percent of high school diplomas issued in the U.S. Can a test replace four years of high school?

James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries and Tim Kautz

James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries and Tim Kautz

In a 2011 study, the GED Testing Service found that within six years of earning a GED, about 40 percent of GED recipients enroll in college — but most drop out within a year. Only about 1 percent earns a bachelor’s degree.

So this year they are launching a new, more difficult test, partly because of the difference between GED recipients and high school graduates when it comes to outcomes that matter. By looking beyond other test scores and evaluating the GED program using outcomes like educational attainment, the GED Testing Service has made a major stride. But will the new test be a better predictor of these outcomes?

Based on our work in a new book, “The Myth of Achievement Tests: The GED and the Role of Character in American Life,” we argue that it will not. The test is being changed under the notion that it measures the right skills but in the wrong quantities — in other words, that passing the old GED did not require enough scholastic ability.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: dropouts, ged, standardized tests

January 16, 2014 at 5:13 PM

Your voices: Readers on why they would — or wouldn’t — hire a high school droput

Our latest Question of the Week stemmed from Claudia Rowe’s Monday story about a Kent-based dropout re-engagement program called iGrad. We asked: “Would you hire a high school dropout?” and gave readers three options “yes,” “no” or “only if he or she had earned a GED or other equivalency.” We also required respondents to provide a reason for their answers.

Here is a sampling of the responses (some have been edited for length):

Everyone has different abilities and motivations. A high school diploma does not indicate either of these attributes. If an individual shows they can do the required tasks or can be trained to do so, then a diploma is moot.

—Dana Briggs, Kirkland

School is EASY. If they cannot finish school, they won’t make it in the real world.

—Warren Trout, Seattle


Comments | More in Opinion, Question of the Week, Your voices | Topics: dropouts, igrad, your voices

January 13, 2014 at 7:15 AM

Today’s story: Dropouts flood Kent’s second-chance iGrad school

Today’s front-page story by Claudia Rowe examines an unusual program targeting high school dropouts in the Kent School District. Here’s an excerpt: No one is forced to attend, yet the 18-month-old program has a waiting list, and its popularity has surged. As of December, 540 young people had enrolled, drawn by the promise of a…


Comments | More in News | Topics: dropouts, ged, igrad

January 12, 2014 at 9:30 PM

Guest: How I went from dropping out of high school to earning a master’s degree

Kezia Willingham

Kezia Willingham

I stopped attending high school when I was 14. I was aware enough, then, to know that I was different, yet still too young to know why I felt so alienated. School was not a place I felt welcome. More importantly, what school had to offer — a path to college — didn’t seem to apply to poor kids like me.

During the 1980s, there wasn’t as much awareness around helping socioeconomically disadvantaged children succeed in school as there is today. The truth of the matter is that if a child is struggling with basic needs such as access to shelter, nutrition, medical care or emotional well-being, he or she will struggle to engage in school. That was the truth for me.

Transforming myself from a high school dropout to a college graduate took many years. Eventually, I realized that just because a person may meet one social demographic, such as a dropout, at one point in time, it doesn’t mean her life trajectory is permanently stuck there. I’ve lived long enough, and benefited from enough social mobility programs to know that they work — maybe not in the immediate sense, but over the longitudinal course of life.

I earned my GED when I was about 19, then went on to receive a bachelor’s degree when I was 27 and a master’s degree when I was 31.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: dropouts, higher ed

January 12, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Guest: What other states can teach Washington about dropout re-engagement

Illustration by Donna Grethen / Op Art

Illustration by Donna Grethen / Op Art

Efforts on behalf of the nation’s huge pool of young people who have not completed high school are gathering steam under the name of dropout re-engagement.  Full-scale re-engagement means reaching out and finding young people who need high school credentials, assessing their educational status, referring them to school completion options and other services, and providing support to enroll and continue in a new school.

Last year, 14 re-engagement programs across the country, including those in Washington, provided education referrals to more than 10,000 young people. Programs received confirmation of enrollment of more than 6,000. Of those who enrolled, 73 percent completed a full additional year of school or graduated.

This new wave of re-engagement activity began a few years ago in the form of physical centers — youth-friendly locations where the assessment and referral takes place — and the approach has spread rapidly. In an interesting variant, several Denver-area school districts deploy staff to the coffee shops and bus stops where young people gather and provide support one-to-one at multiple locations.

Re-engagement professionals have taken note of the rapid growth of Washington’s HB1418-Open Doors program. Indeed, Washington’s recent progress stands in some contrast to what is happening in other states. Washington led with state policy; nationwide, most re-engagement initiatives began locally.

Common challenges and opportunities face re-engagement initiatives, whether the begin at the state or local level.  These include structural factors such as the local mix of alternative schools, as well as practical items such as whether to offer credit recovery services in tandem with re-engagement referrals.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: dropouts, guest opinion

January 9, 2014 at 4:49 PM

Question of the Week: Would you hire a high school dropout?

Illustration by Paul Tong / Op Art

Illustration by Paul Tong / Op Art

Last week’s blog post about the societal costs of high school dropouts drew a strong response from readers. According to a 2011 study from Columbia University, the average dropout imposes a lifetime cost of about $235,680 in welfare payments, food stamp, criminal justice and medical care.

With more than 30,000 teens and young adults disconnected from school and lacking diplomas in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, the economic costs add up fast.

But the passage of ground-breaking legislation in 2010 made connecting dropouts with a diploma or other certification a renewed priority in Washington state. A popular Kent-based high school completion program called iGrad is the subject of Monday’s front-page story.


Comments | More in Question of the Week, Your voices | Topics: dropouts, igrad, question of the week

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