1 in 10 U.S. high schools is a ‘dropout factory’
WASHINGTON - It’s a nickname no principal could be proud of: “Dropout factory,” a high school where no more than 60 percent of the students who start as freshmen make it to their senior year. That description fits more than one in 10 high schools across America.
“If you’re born in a neighborhood or town where the only high school is one where graduation is not the norm, how is this living in the land of equal opportunity?” asks Bob Balfanz, the Johns Hopkins researcher who coined the term “dropout factory.”
There are about 1,700 regular or vocational high schools nationwide that fit that description, according to an analysis of Education Department data conducted by Johns Hopkins for The Associated Press. That’s 12 percent of all such schools, about the same level as a decade ago.
While some of the missing students transferred, most dropped out, says Balfanz. The data look at senior classes for three years in a row to make sure local events like plant closures aren’t to blame for the low retention rates.
The highest concentration of dropout factories is in large cities or high-poverty rural areas in the South and Southwest. Most have high proportions of minority students. These schools are tougher to turn around because their students face challenges well beyond the academic ones — the need to work as well as go to school, for example, or a need for social services.