This interesting data available on the ERDC website shows the dropout rates as a whole, but also shows them disaggregated by grade and by demographics.
This is interesting data, but of course it’s also terribly disturbing. Each data point is a young person whose life prospects are significantly and sometimes irreparably harmed. Sometimes the decision to dropout is based on apathy. In other cases, it’s essentially a forced choice — driven by trauma and circumstances in their life, such as homelessness and other seemingly overwhelming obstacles. This is some of the most troubling data we look at in K-12.
Analytically, there are some noteworthy trends in the data. Immediately obvious is the declining dropout rates by grade over time – certainly good news. Yet, there are some interesting spikes in the data. One wonders what happened in 2003-04, when 12th grade dropout rates went through an interesting one year drop, then rebounded (see inserted arrow). Whatever impacted the 12th grade curve that year did not have the same impact on grades 9, 10, or 11; while 12th spikes up, the others continue down.
Also interesting (though heartbreaking) is the trend in the dropout rates across grades in a single year. For the ‘all students’ group, rates gradually climb upwards, with the senior year showing a noticeable increase from junior year, and senior year typically being about double that of freshmen year. The incline is generally steady.
But this trend line does not hold true for all subgroups. You’ll notice that for our Language Learner students, the dropout rate as seniors is nearly three times that of freshmen (see table below); producing an atypical spike in the senior year.
A similar trend presents for males. Male and female dropout rates are fairly parallel up through the junior year. The senior year, they split, with the male rate nearly 38 percent higher (8.0% compared to 5.8%).
For these three points in the data – senior year spike in 03-04, and ELL and gender senior year disparities – I would be interested in hearing your hypotheses. What do you think explains these troubling trends? How can we combat them? (Please respond by clicking ‘Leave a Comment’ below)
~ Ben Rarick,