The nation’s dropout problem is most severe in a few hundred big-city
schools that graduate less than half of their freshman classes,
according to a Harvard University study. The study, which included
Cleveland and Columbus, found that the dropout problem is largely
confined to 200 to 300 high schools in the nation’s 35 biggest cities.
It also showed that most of the problem schools were big – more than 900
students – with predominantly black or Hispanic student populations.
The findings are significant because they isolate the problem and
suggest changes – such as splitting big schools into smaller ones – that
could help keep students from dropping out, said Harvard Professor Gary
Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project, which sponsored the
research with the Cambridge, Mass.-based Achieve
“This measures how many ninth-graders are around to walk across the
stage” to graduate, Orfield said. “A lot of these kids vanish. The test
numbers for the school might go up, but we feel schools should be held
accountable for graduating their students.”
The two Ohio districts in the study drew mixed reviews. Researchers
Robert Balfanz and Nettie Legters of Johns Hopkins University said less
than 50 percent of the freshmen at five Cleveland high schools and 11
Columbus high schools in the 1992-93 school year became seniors in
1995-96, the most recent year the study examined.
– Scott Stephens