High school drop out rates have been growing by leaps and bounds, to the point of being called a national epidemic. Exactly what is the cost of dropping out of high school? According to the video captured from the Washington Post, dropping out is a million dollar mistake.

In an era when having a diploma is a bare minimum; many of our young people are selling themselves real short very early in the game. As budgets are finalized, it seems prudent that these stark, staggering statistics should be in the back of everyone’s mind.

Earlier in the week I put up a thread about Hispanic high drop out rates, much to the chagrin of at least one ‘regular’ here. I was accused of quoting some pro-Hispanic groups. Truthfully, I was gathering my information from the VA Dept. of Education. I would say that is a fairly ethnically neutral agency. It’s their job to disaggregate data.

So without apology, here is part 2 of the drop out phenomena. What I didn’t know earlier in the week is that City of Manassas has an even higher drop out rate than Prince William County. Critics will be happy to know that this video does not break down data by ethnicity. It speaks about all kids.

Pardon the mini-mercial.

Surely with statistics like these, right here in our own backyard, we should be rethinking the ‘business as usual’ for high school students. Will everyone go to college? Should everyone go to college? What is being done educationally for those who probably have no intentions of going to college, at least not right after high school? What kinds of job training can a high school student get? Should it be the job of public schools to prepare students for jobs out of high school? If not, where will the student aquire those skills?

28 Thoughts to “T.C. Williams, City of Manassas Have High Drop Out Rates”

  1. IVAN

    It should be noted that Freedom H.S. had a dropout rate of 12.7% and Stonewal Jackson had a rate of 16.8%. Manassas City has one high school while PWC has 10. Additionally, the way the State counts dropouts can skew the numbers also. If a student moves out of state and re-registers with another school system or private school, and that school does not request a copy of the student’s transcript, the State counts him as a drop-out. I a student requests his or her transcript upon leaving the area and carries it to their new school, the State counts this as a dropout. Although the majority of students who dropout do so to enter the work force to support their family, the system for counting the rate can distort the numbers.

  2. DB

    I have more questions: What constitutes a student who has dropped out? Is that a student who leaves high school prior to putting in 4 years? Does that include a student who spends four years in high school, discovers that they still need some more credits, and decides “forget it, I’m done”? Does the drop out data include or exclude students who later received a GED, or are currently enrolled in a GED program? I agree with MH that a high school diploma is important. However, once upon a time in the late 1980’s, the requirements for a general ed diplomia were not what they are now. When I graduated, the county required Alg I, Geom, and AlgII for an advanced diploma. Now those three courses are required for a gen ed diploma. There are no more Consumer Math courses offered for students as math credit. ALL students must have, at the least, the two courses of Alg, and Geom. in order to graduate.

  3. Juturna

    We need to re-think vocational schools. They are not the slam that many think they are. Many good ones existed throughout the north due to the industrial belt that spread from Illinois through Pennsylvania. Now many are focused on small business ownership – which leads to further degrees.

  4. DB

    Ivan,
    Thanks for the drop out stats, but what number of students do the percentages translate into? 50 students per school,100 students per school? Just curious. Also, how does NOVA’s drop out rate compare with other regions of the state, say Newport News?

  5. Moon-howler

    Readers might want to take a look at VDOE reports section.
    Best kept secrets in town!

    Ivan, you make a good point. It is hard to compare a school system with 1 high school with a division that has 10.

    http://www.doe.virginia.gov/VDOE/Publications/

  6. Poor Richard

    Ivan – makes a number of good points.
    DB – a dropout, as I understand it, is any student who enters
    the system, no matter how briefly, that isn’t recorded as
    eventually a graduate. The student may actually graduate in
    another state or country, but if documentation isn’t shared
    with the local school system the state and Feds list the student
    as a dropout. More transient areas are challenged in tracking
    all the students that, at any point, have attended their schools.
    (FYI – would add that MCPS had their limited English proficient
    student percentage go from FY2005 24% to FY2009 35% and their
    eligible for free and reduced lunch go form 23% to 37% in the
    same period.)

  7. IVAN

    DB, I believe the number of dropouts in Manassas City for 2008 was 69. Since the school system does not keep stats on status, there is no way to determine how many were “illegals”. However, 50% of these dropouts were ESL students. Make your own conclusions as to how many were illegal. The school system tries to keep in touch with each individual and encourage them to come back and get their GED. BTW, the number of students in the City school system has increased this year as have the percentage of students who have limited English proficiency. I understand the same is true in PWC. So much for “repelling this invasion”.

  8. Chris

    DB,
    Check out the link MH put up there. The tidewater area, and the rural south-west counties have horrible drop out rates. At a quick glance NOVA looks pretty good. You can look by county, but unfortunately it doesn’t have them ranked by drop out rate. I’m glad you brought up the tidewater area, and then it made me think about the very poor rural areas. Things don’t look good down there at all.

  9. Witness Too

    Seems to me all the military families could also contribute to the drop out rate, since families rarely stay in one place long enough for a student who enters a high school to stay until graduation.

  10. Moon-howler

    Ivan, stay tuned for tomorrow’s thread. Meanwhile, check out that link.
    It has a wealth of information in it. I didn’t realize it was there. I was trying to answer DB’s question, discovered it, and immediately got side-tracked.

    Comcast’s email is down or I would just tell you in email. I do hope the City gives you credit for defending it!!

  11. Moon-howler

    Many areas have bad drop out rates. Somehow people think we are exempt because of being in rich NOVA. Such is not the case.

    TC Williams and Osbourn High School both have the distinction of being the only high school serving their jurisdiction. SJHS’s drop out rate is horrifying!

    As for re-enrollment, official transcripts are not handed to the student. Transfer papers are. Transfer papers will help you get enrolled and set up in the right classes but will not document previously earned carnegie units, etc. Therefore, I am wondering how someone who actually graduates can get lost in the shuffle? The receiving school would have had to have sent for the official transcript. (so glad I had a guidance counsellor friend I could call for info on this one)

  12. DB

    Thanks for the site MH! You’re right..it is a treasure trove of information. It was interesting to discover that the drop out rate is compared to the total membership grades 7-12 as of Sept. 30th of the school year, so I’m going to assume that all students in grades 7-12 who qualify as a “drop out” are counted in the statistics. I’m also going to assume that since the amount of drop outs are compared to a school’s membership as of Sept. 30th, the data may not be completely accurate since we all know that membership numbers on Sept. 30th do not always match the membership numbers at the end of the school year. Also I looked up the amount of drop outs in PWC in the year ’97-’98, and it was 699 students(3.24 percent) and the total amount of students who dropped out in ’07-’08 was 467(1.42 percent). Ten years ago PWC was a smaller school system, yet had a higher drop out rate. Thought that was interesting.

  13. DB

    Correction: The data was from the ’96-97 school year, not ’97-98. In the ’96-97 school year Manassas City had 33 students(1.39 percent) drop out. In ’07-08 school year 54 students dropped out (1.86 percent). Yes, this is an increase, but hardly a huge one when one factors in how the population has changed in 11 years. Reading some of the stuff in the media one would think that the sky was falling:)

  14. Moon-howler

    The other article about the Hispanic drop out rate explained how drop outs are now calculated in NoVA. DC and Maryland are not yet doing it.

    Yes, one would have thought the sky was falling.

    How does any kid think they will ever make it without a diploma? UFB.

  15. anonforever

    Moon-howler :
    The other article about the Hispanic drop out rate explained how drop outs are now calculated in NoVA. DC and Maryland are not yet doing it.
    Yes, one would have thought the sky was falling.
    How does any kid think they will ever make it without a diploma? UFB.

    I made it without a diploma.

    I know I am a bit of an aberration, but I am a high school drop out. Left after my junior year. I have gone on to earn an associates degree, a Bachelor’s degree, and a Master’s Degree, all from well regarded schools, including George Mason. I am considering pursuing a second Master’s or PhD in the relatively near future. I have a professional job and never toiled in fast food as I worked my way through school. I did it working as administrative assistant in the Federal Government, sometimes waiting tables or folding sweaters at the Gap to make ends meet when I had my own apartment.

    There are a million reasons why kids leave school – I honestly don’t think anyone noticed I quit at the time. I guess they work a great deal harder at retention now, but only because the data is tracked more effectively. There was nothing that could have been said to me to keep me in school – couldn’t change my family situation, the elitist social dynamics of the school, the fact that I had to work to support myself, or any of the other reasons why I quit. I wish I could have followed a more traditional route to my success by finishing high school (you do miss a lot and make things harder on yourself), but at the same time, I wish to God we wouldn’t say it is the only way to succeed. It’s a heck of a lot harder doing what I did, but I succeeded. Comments like Moonhowler’s shows a lack of respect for those who have beaten the odds.

  16. Firedancer

    Totally off topic:
    Unfortunately, Jeff Frederick was just voted out as chair of the Republican Party of Virginia. Hope he continues to fight for his position. Go Jeff go! Continue helping Virginia elect a Democrat for governor!

  17. DB

    There were 441 students in VA last year who received a Certificate of Completion from their high schools. A Cert of Completion is basically a certificate that says that yes the student attended high school, but did not receive a diploma. The students are however not counted as drop outs because they hung in there for 4 years. They are included in the category: Graduates and Completers. I like looking at the data across the years because it does in some way beg to differ with the argument that ESL students are to blame for increased drop out rates. Looking at PWC data of a decrease in drop outs over an 11 year time period, as the system’s population expanded, the number of ESL students increased, families became more transient, free and reduced lunch rates increased, more Title I schools emerged, the SOLS were put into place, etc., I think that despite all the challenges, the schools have done a pretty good job of retaining their students. In a perfect world, all students would get a diploma, but that’s not the world we live in.

  18. Poor Richard

    Witness Too – Military “brats” are normally not the problem because,
    among their many talents, military parents know how to
    file paperwork. The problem is with students who simply don’t
    show up one day and leave no forwarding address – they stay on
    the books and are charged to the school system as a “drop-out”.

  19. Witness Too

    I see. Thanks Richard.

  20. Poor Richard

    Frederick the Great dethroned?! A dark day for the DPV.

  21. Poor Richard

    FYI – The latest segment in an interesting series of articles on
    immigration issues is now up on the NYT website. This
    week is focused on Irving, Texas and Mayor “Bubba” Gears
    as that community attempts to find a “middle ground” on
    immigration. It hits close to home.

  22. Moon-howler

    Thanks Poor Richard. It certainly did hit close to home. I guess PWC wasn’t as unique as Corey would have us believe?

  23. anonforever

    I would really like to hear Moonhowler’s response to my previous post. Thanks!

  24. Moon-howler

    Sorry you feel that my opinions lack respect for high school drop outs. First off, you are very much an exception. Most kids who drop out do not end up with master’s degrees. My question to you is, would you want your kids to drop out of high school? This obviously didn’t happen yesterday, just looking at your list of accomplishments.

    Some drop outs eventually get a GED. No way is a GED ever considered equal to a diploma. Not in the real world.

    I am glad you were able to achieve way beyond what most high school drop outs are able to do. I sure wouldn’t be holding you up as a role model for others, however. As you pointed out, the road to success wasn’t easy and I sure wouldn’t advise any kid to take the more difficult road.

  25. anonforever

    Some people truly have no choice but to leave high school, to support themselves or their families. Seemingly, you would have had me on a stripper pole or flipping burgers forever. People are capable of so much more than a choice they make, good or bad, in one moment of time, especially when they are young. There were serious problems in my family – there are actually two of us that went the GED route so that we could get to a better place. My sister is finishing up her nursing degree, working a good job, and raising three kids, all on the honor roll. After she gets established in her new field, she will likely pursue being a nurse practitioner and the advance degree that is required for that goal. She has had a harder road than I, but she is making very good thing out of a very bad situation. Every person has the capacity to do just that. We had a few people, like you, who told us that we would amount to nothing because we didn’t finish high school. Thank God experience has taught us that all things are possible and ultimately the most important voice you listen to is your own.

    (Though I have to say that this little exchange has motivated me to look for a doctoral program in my field to start in the near future. Or maybe I should just go back, do the course work, and finish high school so I can have a proper high school diploma to go with my Master’s Degree.)

    For a blog that has so many good ideas, you are embarrassingly judgmental. I liked this site because Alanna and company are more open minded than your posting counterparts on BVBL. Are you sure you are on the right blog?

  26. Moon-howler

    I think that you are putting words in my mouth. I have never said people who do not finish high school will amount to nothing. What I AM saying is that people who do not complete high school often have a hard time meeting financial success. Does that mean everyone? No, of course not.

    I would be a pretty irresponsible human being if I advocated students dropping out of high school, now wouldn’t I. I imagine you have had to work pretty darn hard and would probably tell students contemplating being drop outs the same thing I tell them.

    Actually one of my best friends dropped out of high school. She got her GED and went on to become a real estate broker. She is very much a success story. I believe she also would encourage all students to finish. She did not have an option.

    Sorry I embarrass you. Now that we can agree that I never said someone like you would not amount to a hill of beans, tell me exactly what it is that I said that you feel was judgemental. You still are speaking in generalitites. I don’t know what it is that has offended you.

    If it is that all students should finish high school if at all possible and that not doing so puts them at severe risk for future success, I will never apologise because I believe I am correct.

    I have known too many people in my life who did not go back, finish their education and have sat around and bitched and whined about it and blamed others. And for the record, men often have an easier time of it than women do.

  27. anonforever

    “How does any kid think they will ever make it without a diploma? UFB.”

    Sounds pretty judgmental to me. It’s a lot harsher than saying “If it is that all students should finish high school if at all possible and that not doing so puts them at severe risk for future success” and very different than “Now that we can agree that I never said someone like you would not amount to a hill of beans.” You said someone couldn’t make it without a diploma and added Unf-ing Believeable at the end. That offends me.

    As I said before, this is not a road I encourage and it isn’t where we are guiding our children to as parents. My sister and I are attempting to give them a more stable upbringing so they don’t have to make the same choices we did. But I am not going to vilify someone generally by saying they never will make it. I have been reading this blog for a while and have enjoyed much of your posting. All the more reason I have been completely disappointed in you and this exchange.

    My sister and I have are two women with five kids between us. We went back. We had to make the choices we did at 16 and 17 to survive. We never looked back, only moved forward. Thank God we didn’t listen to those who said we couldn’t, because we always thought we could. And we did.

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