The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Will our kids graduate from high school?
Don’t count on it!

Jul 23, 2007

An education report “Diplomas Count: Ready for What?” just came out, examining how many students are graduating from high school. While based on the 2003-2004 school year, the overall tendency is very much up-to-date. The study looked at the 50 largest school districts in the U.S. and ranked them according to graduation rates – to be precise, how many finished grades nine through twelve in four years.

The Baltimore Sun paper and local TV bragged about the study’s results in three Maryland districts: Baltimore County ranked 4th best with a graduation rate of 81%, Montgomery County came in 6th with an 80% rate, and Anne Arundel County ranked 12th with a 75% rate.

True, these rates are somewhat higher compared to the national average of a 70% graduation rate. But let’s get some realistic perspective. Even in Maryland’s two highest graduation districts, one out of five students do not graduate; and one out of four doesn’t graduate in Anne Arundel County. Is this something to crow about? And there was no mention of Baltimore City, where two out of three students don’t finish high school on time.

Baltimore City has plenty of company among urban districts. In Chicago and Philadelphia, only half graduate on time. In Los Angeles and New York City, somewhat less than half graduate. In Cleveland, two out of three don’t graduate. Detroit has the lowest rate: three out of four young people don’t graduate.

What about the overall national graduation rate of 70%, an appalling rate for the richest country in the world. In the 1990's there was a steady improvement in graduation rates. But not in these last few years. Since 2002 the rate has remained the same. Things are not getting any better.

Breaking down the rates, there are no big surprises. Poverty and discrimination rear their heads in education, as throughout the society. The lowest graduation rate is among American Indians, with less than half graduating; then come Black, and then Hispanic students, with slightly more than half graduating on time.

What this report shows is not something to clap your hands about. Rather the opposite. A decent, exciting education in well-kept-up buildings, with science, world geography, math, literature, the arts, could and should be available to all young people. Education is one of the most important measures of the well-being of society and its future. The high drop-out rate of the next generation of working-class and even some parts of middle-class youth, tells us all we need to know about the distorted priorities set by the policy makers of this country.