Each year almost one third of all public high school students nationwide—and nearly half of all black, Hispanic and Native Americans—fail to graduate with their class. Locally, the dropout rate in Green Bay Area Public Schools (GBAPS) has increased 10% in the last decade, while the state average was a 2% decrease in dropouts. Where is the outrage about this ‘Silent Epidemic’ phenomenon?
According to research funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, published in 2006 by Civic Enterprises with Peter D. Hart Research Associates, this dropout trend is nothing short of a national disaster. For example:
-more than 1 million students who enter 9th grade each year fail to graduate with their peers 4 years later
-approximately 7,000 students drop out daily
-about 40% of the eventual dropouts could be predicted in 6th grade
-about 75% of the eventual dropouts could be predicted by 9th grade
Why does this happen? Teenagers surveyed for this research project cited a variety of factors for their failure to graduate with their class:
-47% said classes ‘weren’t interesting’ to them
-43% had missed to many days and couldn’t catch up
-38% said they had ‘too much freedom’ and not enough rules in life
-35% said they were failing so they quit
-32% said they had to get a job to make money
Nationally, more than one-third of all high school dropouts leave school between the 9th and 10th grades, and by the end of 10th grade 62% of all dropouts have left the system. Is it a change of school location? Is it being the ‘young ones’ in an environment of older students? Is it becoming more mobile by having transportation and therefore more options? Is it going to work for the first time? All of these factors and others can contribute to a dropout decision—but as a society we must find a way to reverse this trend.
If there were an obvious and simple solution to this problem, surely someone would have found it by now. Certainly, no one entity (peers, parents, school personnel, non-profit staff, faith-based organization representatives, for-profit academic tutoring businesses, etc) can stand alone against such a pervasive and powerful force, so all of us must work together toward a ‘cure’ for this ‘silent epidemic’ that is plaguing our nation.
At the Boys & Girls Club, here in Green Bay and across America, we have a 5-point strategy to do our part:
(1) promote the importance of high school graduation;
(2) build school and parental/concerned adult partnerships;
(3) identify and retain high risk youth;
(4) develop supportive relationships and implement comprehensive/relevant programs; and
(5) track and measure success.
We have dozens of recurring programs at the Boys & Girls Club of Green Bay, but we will be following a national directive to increase our investment in the so-called ‘Top 8’ and at least one is perfect for attacking the dropout phenomenon. Specifically, our Goals for Graduation program will introduce Club members age 6-18 to goal setting and link those concrete actions of today to their future aspirations.