Hispanics Face Highest High School Drop Out Rates in NoVA

Many anti-immigration spokes-people (self-appointed and otherwise) insist that our education system is a draw for illegal immigrants and that our free k-12 immigration system serves as a magnet. New statistics might make them want to rethink that rhetoric.

According to the DC Examiner, 1 out of 4 Hispanic students drops out high school before graduation. New methods of tracking students have allowed jurisdictions to refine their drop out rates. While Arlington, Alexandria and Prince William have the worst Hispanic drop-out rates, Fairfax doesn’t lag too far behind.

Northern Virginia dropout rates for the class of 2008:

Alexandria — 11 percent
Arlington County — 9 percent
Fairfax County — 6 percent
Falls Church — 0 percent
Loudoun County — 3 percent
Prince William County — 10 percent

Source: Virginia Department of Education
NOTE: The above table shows dropout rates for ALL students.

The data track for the first time the path of students who entered high school in 2004 as they progressed through graduation. The previous measure divided total dropouts by total students in grades nine through 12, resulting in lower and less accurate percentages. Maryland districts are about two years away from similar data, and the District of Columbia will have the data in four years.
“This is a milestone in our reporting,” said Virginia Superintendent Patricia Wright, adding that it holds schools accountable for every student.

But it revealed some ugly truths about local districts.

In Alexandria and Arlington and Prince William counties, almost 25 percent of Hispanic students dropped out of school and did not enroll elsewhere between 2004 and 2008. Fairfax County fared little better with a rate of 22 percent.

“That’s way too many students to not be finishing in a society that requires, at a minimum, that individuals have a high school diploma,” said Kathy Wills, director of planning and evaluation for Arlington County Public Schools.

While the data will not ever clearly define which of these students are here legally and which are not, because schools collect no information on status, it only stands to reason that part of these student dropping out are probably out of status because their parents are out of status.

What are possible causes of this phenomena? Is it different that other waves of immigrant groups? How does this dropout rate affect our discussions of future ‘Dream Acts?’ Is there a demographic that disaggregates the data even further, such as by gender or country of origin and would it even matter?