Schools unfairly labeled 'dropout factories'

Posted: Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A recently publicized study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University labeled seven Alaska high schools as "dropout factories."

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The Alaska Department of Education & Early Development strongly objects to this characterization.

In fact, the study does not assess either graduation rates or dropout rates. Instead, it compares the number of seniors with the number of freshmen from four years before. If the senior class is 40 percent smaller, the study assumes the school must have many dropouts.

But the study makes no effort to distinguish between students who drop out and students who simply transfer to another school.

Four of the Alaska schools labeled dropout factories had 2006 graduation rates higher than the state average of 60 percent and close to, or higher than, the national average of 70 percent.

Three of the schools labeled by Johns Hopkins are in Fairbanks, which houses many military families. Two of the schools are in rural cities that receive many village students who later transfer out.

Alaska's graduation rates and dropout rates are readily available to the public from their local school districts and the Web site of the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development, www.eed.state.ak.us.

We do not doubt that Alaska has a serious dropout problem. But it is not helpful to try to assess the problem with faulty methods or to denigrate schools with false labels.

Eric Fry

Information officer, Alaska Department of Education & Early Development

Juneau



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