Friday, November 4, 2011

Rumberger's Profound Book About High School--Dropping Out

Russell W. Rumberger is Vice Provost for Education Partnerships, University of California Office of the President and Professor of Education in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB).
coverA faculty member at UCSB since 1987, Professor Rumberger has published widely in several areas of education.

 I have believed for some time that dropouts, the 30 percent of students who leave high school before graduation, are the least soluble problem in U.S. education.

 Rumberger has evidenced-based answers on how to approach the issue. He makes the point that progress will be difficult.
Reasons for that are complex — a mix of poverty, culture, politics, administrative priorities and other factors. Among his more disheartening conclusions is that schools can’t reduce dropouts unless they have enough money and personnel and stick with proven approaches.
Rumberger still has hope. He identifies which programs have had the most success keeping kids in school, while noting where their progress was uneven. He suggests five fundamental changes in public education necessary for significant improvements in graduation rates:

Russell W. Rumberger

1. Redefine high school success. The measure of a school should not be just mastery of reading, writing and math, but what are called noncognitive skills, such as motivation, perseverance, risk aversion, self-esteem and self-control. This would help both potential dropouts and kids going to college who need work on their social skills.

2.Change the dropout accounting system so schools aren’t rewarded for transferring problem kids. Even students who spend only a semester in the ninth grade before transferring to another school should be counted when the original school calculates how many ninth-graders completed high school four years later. Otherwise, schools will have an incentive to send students most likely to drop out to other schools rather than try to help them.
3. Stop trying to improve schools by forcing them to change their practices over the short term. Instead, help them build their capacity to improve, with more money and staff, over the long term.
4. Work harder to desegregate schools. Rumberger cites a study that found two-thirds of high schools with more than 90 percent minority enrollment had fewer than 60 percent of their students remain in school from ninth to 12th grade. “In short,” he writes, “it matters with whom one goes to school.”

5. Strengthen families and communities. Compared with other developed countries, the United States has one of the highest rates of children living in poverty. Those are the kids most susceptible to dropping out. Anything that improves the health and job security of school neighborhoods improves graduation rates. More early children education programs and preschool are also useful.
The drop out rate in US high schools is worrisome.  Dr. Rumberger's book deserves to be read and studied by teachers and administrators.  This is a book whose ideas call out for implementation within our public schools. 




  1. High school dropout is indeed a very complex issue. As a veteran teacher, I think the public school system must figure out a way to get parents involved in the educational process. This to me is the number one problem that many youngsters face, there is no support coming from home. I disagree with the premise :Rumberger cites a study that found two-thirds of high schools with more than 90 percent minority enrollment had fewer than 60 percent of their students remain in school from ninth to 12th grade. “In short,” he writes, “it matters with whom one goes to school.”

    What is meant by making this statement?
    Two years ago, we graduated the first college bound students from my school. All of them are now sophomores in college. The student body is 88% Mexican American, 10% African American and 2% Asian American. We can attribute our success to getting the parents involved and investing in the future of their children. There is only so much administrators, teachers and counselors can do. As a teacher, I can't go live with my students to make sure they are studying and doing homework. The parent is the one that should monitor his/her child. Can't fix a complex situation with simple solutions.

    Nicole Weaver
    Trilingual Children's Author

  2. Nicole, Thanks so much for your thoughtful and insightful comments. This is, indeed, a complex issue. The statistics speak for themselves: 30 percent of our public school children drop out before graduating from high school. If we are to have a viable population, something must be done to alter this travesty. There are many people talking about many solutions. So far, no one has come up with an answer, as these stats have been around for quite some time. We, as parents and educators, must step up and take responsibility for our children. That is the only hope for the future of American (US) children today. Without these two components working in concert, all is lost...