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October 30, 2007

Maryland's "Dropout Factories"

Click here to get a detailed map of the schools labeled "dropout factories" by Johns Hopkins University for the Associated Press. Hopkins applied the label to schools where no more than 60 percent of the students who start out as freshmen make it to their senior year. The Sun ran this story today.

Maryland is home to 13 "dropout factories" including Meade High in Anne Arundel County and five schools in Baltimore: Edmondson-Westside High (a vocational school), Frederick Douglass High, Northwestern High, Patterson High and the now-closed Southwestern High. For whatever it's worth, Douglass, Northwestern and Patterson are the only large neighborhood high schools remaining in Baltimore. All the rest have been broken up into smaller schools within the big campuses. And many of those small schools are too new to have data measuring seniors who started as freshmen.

For the sake of the students at these schools, I hope the dropout factory label doesn't stick as other labels in education do. Which would you rather attend: A dropout factory or a persistently dangerous school? (Fortunately, no school in Maryland has the distinction of being both.)

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 11:38 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Around the Nation, Around the Region, Baltimore City, Trends


A dropout factory. You don't get caught in crossfire at a dropout factory.

Yes! What a great idea this researcher at Hopkins has - let's add another demoralizing label to schools that does nothing to improve the situation. Let's claim it is the teachers' fault, that they weren't dedicated enough or the administration wasn't working hard enough, etc. Let's do everything in our power to take the focus away from what creates a COMMUNITY where students would rather drop out than stay in school. Let's ignore the fact that one of the newest buildings for kids in Baltimore is not a school or positive place for children, but rather, the Juvenile Detention Center.

Hey people - wake up! To call a school a Dropout Factory is a great way to earn a headline and get your name in the news! Unfortunately, this does nothing about the lack of quality healthcare, housing, nutrition, jobs, etc. I would have expected a more reasoned analysis from a Hopkins researcher than this. Shame.

Artie: You ignorant fool. The purpose of the study was not to resolve the social issues plaguing our society but rather identify schools that obviously are not producing much in terms of useful people. Shall we identify these trouble spots so maybe the attention it garners leads to some action by our elected leaders; or perhaps shall we whine about how this "name calling" hurts our children. Hell lets do a study and see how many students even read this article. The number would be astonishing low but than again if we did that we might hurt your feelings by exposing the truth. Its amazing how feel good liberals get so uptight when you expose the filth and failure of our society.

Yeah, Brian. Because when they went through that whole "persistently dangerous" labeling, that really led to some "action by our elected leaders." Oh, wait, no it didn't. It led to schools fudging their numbers so they didn't get on the list.

And I'm pretty sure the purpose of the study was so that somebody could say the did a study, not for any use to society.

Maybe you shouldn't resort to name calling either.

Those of us who work in the schools and/or send children to them already know that they have these problems. As Steph pointed out, these studies have done little to make any difference. The "persistently dangerous" label is an excellent example. In order to avoid it schools stopped suspending the students who were causing problems thereby making the schools more dangerous in reality, but "safer" on paper. I have no doubt that the new "dropout factory" label will cause similar results. We're already pushing failing students through the system. We will now be pressured to do it even more often in order to make our graduation results look better. Sadly, sending ill-prepared students into the world is not in their best interest. It is also not in the best interest of our society.

I wish they would lying to these children about getting a GED!
The supposedly study states that getting a GED does not lead to obtaining a good job is a LIE!!! I earned my GED and I went to a 4 year University..NOT COMMUNITY COLLEGE..Earned a BA in Psychology. I now have a Masters Degree in Education. I work in Baltimore City Public Schools as a Special Educator and 2 years from my PhD.
Traditional classrooms do not work for some students. If the student gets to a certain age and they are far behind the credits they need to graduate, A GED is an excellent option.
Educators need to stop demonizing the GED and begin to see it as a lifeline for struggling high school students who have run out of options.

@Karla: Your GED did not lead to your good job. Your persistence AFTER your GED led to your good job.

The sales pitch that's said to be a lie is that having a GED alone will lead to bigger and better things than a lack of a GED/typical diploma will. In today's world, it's getting harder and harder to argue against that, as the "good" jobs either require a college degree (or above) or -- if you're a self-starting entrepreneur, for example -- don't care about your formal education at all.

Couple more points that, as Brian calls me above, this "ignorant uptight feel-good liberal fool" would like to point out:

1. Brian, I appreciate you calling me an "ignorant fool" because it serves to prove my point further. Just like labeling schools as "Persistently Dangerous" or now "Dropout Factory" won't change a thing, calling me an ignorant fool didn't really help to dissuade me of my opinion, either. You make obvious in your post that you do not work in public schools and quite possibly don't have any children there, either. Allow me to enlighten you: there is not a school in Baltimore that is, as you claim, "not producing much in terms of useful people." To claim, as you do, that children are already useless people would be laughable if not so offensive. As Karla points out, the traditional classroom setting is not appropriate for every child. We all learn differently; however, due to staffing shortages, overcrowded classrooms, and general mismanagement by politicians that has nothing to do with the hard-working teacher in the classroom, we are not able to provide the optimal learning setting for every child in a traditional K12 setting. To make matters worse, in BCPSS we offer little in terms of alternative learning environments, summer school, bridge programs, etc. During my time as a teacher in BCPSS, I saw some strides being made toward that, and the new CEO is certainly working toward those goals as well, they're just not there yet.

2. Overall, my issue with adding a label is not a Conservative vs. Liberal objection, but rather, a theoretical vs. practical one. In theory, I suppose using a nasty, mean-spirited, negative label might spur someone to action (although empirically this has never worked and often times just causes those who might receive that label to make administrative changes rather than substantive ones, as Steph and Avalon point out above.) Unfortunately, there are many politicians who legislate education laws, but have absolutely no front-line experience and therefore, no sense of what is practical and may actually be helpful.

Let me end with this - and I welcome further debate with my ideas (and by debate, I don't mean useless name calling, but actually do your homework if you want to disagree with me): Brian, since you like studies, here's one for you to ponder. Any psychosocial analysis of a child's mind shows that if you tell a child from a young age, (ie. during Erikson's Stage 4 of Development, where they are working on industry vs. inferiority) that they are dumb - guess what! They start believing you and acting like it, too! So you want to study how many students will actually read the article saying their school is a Dropout Factory? I would vociferously argue against that - they don't need to see another article trying to say they are failing. What they need to see are more articles pointing out the success stories, like Karla's, so that hopefully, just maybe, they will start believing that they too can accomplish that.

Meade High School's 2007 graduation rate was over 80%.

Check it out at:|3|02|3323|3|000000|A

The clowns at Johns Hopkins couldn't seem to grasp the fact that military families get transfered. In light of this recent report, I have gone back and read some of the papers that this individual and his peers have put out. The glaring mistakes in methods are both troubling and unethical. However, the writing of the reports themselves is what stood out to me. How could anyone whose profession revolves around statistics, and therefore the scientific method, write with such sophomoric clich├ęs as, "The findings are a chilling reminder..."

Before the dust has settled, I am going to assume that this report will be nationally discredited. Hopefully, this will mean that those responsible will also no longer hold positions at Johns Hopkins University.

Respectfully Submitted,
Self-Righteous Teacher Chris

Ferndale High School in Ferndale, Michigan succeeded in correcting the mistaken reporting of the Johns Hopkins University report that had included it as a "dropout factory" with poor "promoting power." The University researchers have acknowledged that Ferndale High School does not belong in this category (in fact it's three-year promoting power is 77% rather than the 50% published) and removed the school from the list because of the school district's high outward mobility (more students move out than move in during high school.). Please visit their website for more clarification to see the "Schools Removed from the List of Weak Promoting Power High Schools:

Shall we identify these trouble spots so maybe the attention it garners leads to some action by our elected leaders; or perhaps shall we whine about how this "name calling" hurts our children

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