Todd Friedman created this Soundslides video presentation to give you another look at Audenried High School and Dominique from "No Easy Road."
Major funding for this edition of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook on keeping students on track was provided through a partnership with Project U-Turn and the Eastern Pennsylvania Organizing Project (EPOP). The Notebook is an independent, nonprofit news service working for quality and equity in public education.
The class of 2006 – students who started high school in fall 2002 – is the most recent cohort of students for whom a six-year graduation rate is available. Of that class in the School District of Philadelphia, nearly 60 percent had graduated by the summer of 2008, with 38 percent having dropped out.
The school-by-school data on the Class of 2006 show that about half the high schools had dropout rates of 40 percent or more. Also the graduation and dropout rates corresponded very closely to the type of schools. (Click on the chart below to enlarge it.)
Philadelphia public schools have seen growth in the overall graduation rate over the past three years. But the rate is still low.
For the students who started in Philadelphia high schools in 2004 – or the class of 2008 – the four-year graduation rate of 58.7 percent was almost 10 points higher than the rate for the class of 2006.
In nearly a year of operation, the Re-engagement Center at School District headquarters has seen a steady stream of youth – and some older adults – come for help to re-start their educations. It has sought to get them into a program and kept track of the reasons they gave for leaving in the first place.
Number of Participant Enrollments
May 2008-January 2009
The top three reasons participants gave
for leaving school:
Click this Adobe Acrobat PDF to view how teachers keep their students on track.
As part of the effort to keep students on track to graduation, the School District – even before the unveiling of the strategic plan "Imagine 2014" – developed several new initiatives this year for use in high schools.
The tools are primarily designed to intervene early with struggling students and help them plan ahead. Among them:
Stemming the massive tide of dropouts will require a Herculean effort that no one person, organization, or city agency can shoulder alone. When Mayor Michael Nutter last year promised to cut the city’s dropout rate in half by 2014, he called for a new level of cooperation between the city and the District to help with prevention strategies.
Daniel Shaw was a 10th grader at the Franklin Learning Center until the day that he accidentally, he said, brought a small pocketknife to school that was flagged by a metal detector. He turned it over without incident, but was nonetheless handcuffed, arrested, and taken to the police district to await his mother.
At the hearing before a single school official, he gave his side of the story, but was still transferred to a disciplinary school. He was out of school for a time and now attends the alternative program at Accelerated Learning Academy in North Philadelphia.
Drawing on her own experiences, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman believes that large neighborhood high schools can be made to work, and maintains that Philadelphia’s small schools’ movement has only further exacerbated inequities.
In an interview, Ackerman gave a glimpse into her ideas for tackling what is probably the District’s thorniest reform issue – neighborhood high schools that lose as many students as they graduate.