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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

May, 2006

Harvard study: Half of Blacks, Latinos Quit High School

The dropout rate in California is much higher than commonly thought according to The Civil Rights Project of Harvard University. The state uses 87 percent as the successful graduation rate. The study would indicate it is closer to 70 percent.
The most damning aspect of the report says that many high schools underreport or distort dropout rate figures. High school principals and staff get to decide if a student "dropped out" or was transferred. A transferred student is not considered a dropout.

Marin County high schools claim an 86 to 87 percent graduation rate, however students who are transferred to alternative programs, continuation programs, and home study often are "disappeared" out of the statistical pool.

Graduation rates for minority students were significantly lower, often approaching the 50 percent level. High schools in Marin not only tout a high graduation rate but crow about the number of students who graduate and then go on to attend a college or university. Just as it would be informative to accurately track each entering freshman through high school graduation or termination, it would be useful to know how many high school graduates actually complete a two year or four year college program.

According to MSNBC, Gary Orfield, director of Harvard's Civil Rights Project, said the current graduation rate reporting system is "extremely inadequate. There is no incentive for them to report that they dropped out and they can easily report that they transferred someplace else because nobody ever checks up on the data.

"There is almost no money invested at the state level or the federal in determining whether people actually graduate," he said.

According to NewsMax, the San Francisco Chronicle lists three other amazing statistics from the study, illustrating the racial and income gaps in California's school system.

Black and Latino students are three times more likely than white students to attend one of the state's "dropout factories" - a school with graduation rates of 60 percent or less.

Only 10 percent of black students and 7 percent of Latinos attend schools that graduate 90 percent of students.

Schools with healthy graduation rates usually have few students from poor families: At 80 percent of such schools, fewer than 1 in 5 students are low income.


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