Number of Dropout Factories Grows in Washington DC

The number of “dropout factories” – schools where fewer than 60% of students make it all the way from grade 9 to grade 12 – is on the rise in Washington DC, The Washington Examiner reports. The data from the 2013 edition of the “Building a Grad Nation” report released earlier this week shows that the District is one of the few localities where the number of such schools grew in the last ten years.

Nationwide, there has been a drop in the number of schools that fail to graduate their students on such massive scale, yet Washington D.C. is bucking this trend. In total, 13 District high schools graduated fewer than 61% of their students year-to-year compared to only 2 in 2002.

While the list of individual dropout factory schools for 2011 was not released, independent advocacy group Alliance for Excellent Education keeps data for schools as recent as 2010. That year, D.C. also had 13 dropout factories, five of which were charter schools and eight of which were traditional public schools.

Nearby Maryland was another area covered in the the report where the numbers weren’t encouraging. There were 17 dropout factories in the state in 2002. In 2011, the last year covered by the report, there were 22. Maryland and D.C. had the only school systems in the country where there were more dropout factories at the end than there were at the beginning of the time period covered by Grad Nation. Thirty eight states reported a drop in the number of such schools while in four states, the number remained level throughout.

The increase in low-performing schools may be partly due to an increase in schools in general, with more charters starting up in the District and some large Baltimore schools being split up into as many as four smaller ones, report co-author Joanna Fox said.

“There are a lot more high schools than there were,” Fox said. “There’s been a quite intense period of reform, which causes a little turbulence in the numbers.”

Fox added that another underlying culprit could be poor record-keeping by past DC Public Schools officials.

Although the statistics are discouraging, district officials have already put into place a plan that aims to reverse this trend and generally raise the rate of high school graduation across Washington. In accordance with the five-year plan, schools and the district will provide intervention programs to identify and assist those students who are most in danger of dropping out before getting a diploma.

In addition, those who need to make up credits to graduate on time will have access to summer programs and additional academic help throughout the regular school year.

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