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Urgent LEADERSHIP is needed to fight dropout epidemic. For only “leaders “can implement strategy.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Urgent strategies needed to fight dropout epidemic
Only one-fourth of the Detroit Public Schools’ male students are graduating from high school, an epidemic fueling the city’s poverty level and the breakdown of its increasingly fragile social fabric.
A devastating new report shows 11,817 Detroit school students were “unaccounted for” during the school years starting in the fall of 2003 and ending in the fall of 2006, according to the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University. The unaccounted-for students were those who left the Detroit system and did not re-enroll at another Michigan public or charter school. MSU tracked students’ whereabouts through their individual student identification numbers.
Due to growing unemployment, some students’ families may have moved out of state, making them more difficult to track, said Sharif Shakrani, co-director of the MSU center. The MSU researchers say they took the city’s declining population into account and called the study “generous.”

Even then, Detroit’s graduation rate was alarmingly low. Overall, only about one third of all of the Detroit district’s students graduate.
“Our research shows the (Detroit Public Schools’) male graduation rate is 25 percent,” Shakrani says. “Girls’ graduation rate is up to 39 percent This is a dire situation.” Detroit schools’ typical response to its dropout crisis has been to attack the numbers. What it should be doing is attacking the problem.
National trends will not allow the Detroit system to deny this tragedy for much longer. Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, all states are required eventually to adopt the same formula for measuring dropouts as the MSU researchers employed.
This year, the state is moving to the more reliable federal formula and, according to the MSU researchers, will show a statewide graduation rate at 72.9 percent. Gov. Jennifer Granholm has proposed a number of programs in her new budget to deal with dropouts. The new data gives greater urgency to those proposals.
In Detroit, new school superintendent Connie Calloway inherited this problem when she took on her job last summer. We don’t expect her to turn it around overnight.