Saturday, July 26, 2008

California's alarming drop out rate

Jack O’Connell: California’s Alarming Dropout Rate and the Support Our Children Need


In this week’s Democratic weekly radio address, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and Executive Director of the P16 Council José Ortega highlight California’s alarming high school dropout rate. They also call for the support needed to ensure our children are well-educated and our economy is competitive.

You may listen in English or Spanish. A full transcript follows.

Hello, this is State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell.

This year, for the first time using student level data, California was able to report with much more accuracy information about the number of students who either dropped out or graduated from high school.

Implementing a system that revealed the truth about our dropout problem was a very important first step. Now we must face the alarming news that one in four students is dropping out of our California public high schools.

These high school dropouts will struggle to find employment, let alone find a job in which their true potential flourishes.

What's even more troubling is that the dropout rate is even higher among our African American, Hispanic, and low-income students. This achievement gap is a crisis. The loss of potential for students who do not finish school is simply staggering. And it is a major loss to our state’s economy.

To keep California’s economy competitive, we need the jobs a well-educated workforce attracts.

According to the California Dropout Research Project, each yearly wave of dropouts will cost California $46 billion through increased spending and reduced taxes.

These alarming dropout rate numbers are in part a legacy of our state's embarrassingly low per-pupil funding.

Among the fifty states, we consistently rank among the lowest ten.

So when California's State Board of Education recently mandated Algebra 1 for every single 8th grader, I and educators up and down our state were deeply concerned.

California's educators are rightly working hard toward the day when all of our students in 8th grade are truly prepared to succeed in Algebra 1.

But as of today, less than one in four 8th graders enrolled in General Mathematics is even proficient on standards that are taught in 6th and 7th grades.

Now in light of this fact, and our 24 percent dropout rate, it’s clear that in order to improve our students’ education, we need to increase the support of our schools.

Bringing California's per-pupil funding up to par with the rest of the United States is crucial to achieving our educational goals.

Attracting the 8,000 new algebra teachers we will need is going to require competitive recruiting strategies including increased salaries.

Our schools must be repaired and well-maintained if we're going to help our kids focus on their education.

Textbooks, after-school programs, school counselors: these were the basics previous generations needed to excel in school; our kids deserve no less.

Additionally, harnessing the power of today's information technology for educational purposes is an opportunity we simply can't afford to miss.

If history has taught us anything, it’s that the investments made in education benefit everyone in our society.

To sustain California's business innovation, our arts, culture and scientific achievement there is no substitute.

This has been State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, thank you for listening.
From: the California Progress Report.
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