School Age Research
- Graduation rates are declining in six of Multnomah County’s eight school districts (ODE, 2008)
- In Portland alone, 43% of students are not finishing high school on time. (PSF, 2007)
- Rates of non-completion for Native, Latino and African-American youth are more than twice their white counterparts (United Way, 2008)
- As a state, Oregon would save more than $185.2 million in health care costs over the lifetimes of each class of dropouts had they earned their diplomas. (Alliance for Education, 2006)
- Between 26% to 45% of Multnomah County 8th graders are not meeting math benchmarks (ODE, 2008)
- A study found that 33% of students scoring in the low math achievement quartile in 8th grade had not received a high school diploma (Ingles et al., 2001)
Move than 91,000 youth attend public schools in Multnomah County. Nearly a quarter, 22,515, is in high school. More than 50% of these high school students are not graduating. This is upwards of 11,250 youth. A large percentage of this group is minority students. There are nearly 9,000 African-American and over 10,000 Hispanic youth alone attending school in Multnomah County.
As these numbers continue to climb, the sheer numbers of students who aren’t making it has a tremendous impact on the economic and educational vitality of our county and state. In addition to this local reality, Oregon as a state is experiencing a declining income, ranking 32nd in the nation for the number of people below the poverty level and 30th in the nation for per capita income (Oregon Progress Board, 2008).
Closing achievement gaps and decreasing the drop out rate is essential to overcoming these hurdles. We can’t afford to wait.
What we know
Disengagement from school is a process that occurs over time. As early as 6th grade, there are predictors indicating who will drop out of school. Our continued investments in early childhood, Pre-K- K are necessary, and in addition, the support must be continual, since progress can get diluted by 7th and 8th grade.
When the current class of 8th graders was in 5th grade, 78% were meeting standards. By 7th grade this number dropped to 71% and continued to drop to 70% by 8th grade. It is highly likely that this number will continue to dissipate, dropping to as low as 55% by 10th grade (ODE 2008). The trajectory is clear. Despite this, there is scant attention given to 6th –8th grade indicators and the transitions these students are faced with. There are even less targeted policy strategies towards these youth and their families.
Dr. Pedro Noguera tells us that in the most successful schools, where all children are achieving regardless of race or class, typically several strategies are in place to improve academic outcomes. These include:
“a commitment to engage parents as partners in education with explicit roles and responsibilities for parents and educators laid out; a recognition that discipline practices must be linked to educational goals and must always aim at re-connecting troubled students to learning; and a commitment to finding ways to meet the non-academic needs of poor students” (Noguera, 2007).
These strategies give us the opportunity to support schools and communities in a way that makes them the “best they can be” for pre-adolescent youth.
Balfanz, R. & Herzog, L. (2006, May). Keeping middle grades students on track to graduation: Initial analysis and implications. PowerPoint presentation. Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia Education Fund and Johns Hopkins University with support from the William Penn Foundation.
Barro, S. M., & Kolstad, A. (1987, May). Who drops out of high school? Findings from High School and Beyond. Washington, DC: Center for Education Statistics, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education.
Ingels, S. J., Curtin, T. R., Kaufman, P., Alt, M. N., & Chen, X. (2002). Coming of age in the 1990s: The eighth-grade class of 1988 12 years later. (NCES 2002-321). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
Jerald, C. D. (2006, June). Identifying potential dropouts: Key lessons for building an early warning system. Washington, DC: American Diploma Project Network, Achieve, Inc.
Johnson, A. M. (2002). Implementation of characteristics and provision of developmentally responsive middle schools (Doctoral dissertation, University of Southern Mississippi, 2002). Dissertation Abstracts International, 63, 3433.
Jordan, W. J., Lara, J., & McPartland, J. M. (1994, August). Exploring the complexity of early dropout causal structures. Report No. 48. Baltimore, MD: Center for Research on Effective Schooling for Disadvantaged Students, Johns Hopkins University.
Noguera, P (2007, July) Closing the Racial Achievement Gap: The Best Strategies of the Schools We Send Them To. Available online.
Spear, L. P. (2000). The adolescent brain and age-related behavioral manifestations. Neuroscience and Bio-behavioral Reviews, 24, 417-463.
Eccles, J. S., & Midgley, C. (1989). Stage-environment fit: Developmentally appropriate classrooms for young adolescents. In C. Ames & R. Ames (Eds.), Research on motivation in education: Goals and cognitions (Vol. 3, pp. 13-44). New York: Academic Press.