In a new report about high school dropouts, Oklahoma is shown to have done just OK in curbing the problem during the past several years. How sweet it would be if someday our state really began to turn things around.
Researchers for America's Promise Alliance, a child advocacy group founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, found that from 2001 through 2009, the nation's high school graduation rate increased by 3.5 percent. Oklahoma, with 1.3 percent growth, was among 16 states that showed limited or no progress.
Powell's organization found that the number of “dropout factory” high schools — those where 60 percent or fewer of students graduate on time — had fallen by 457 during the eight-year span. That's encouraging. Texas, Florida and Georgia made the biggest dents in these schools. What's discouraging is that 1,550 such schools remain, including 17 in Oklahoma according to the report (it did not identify the schools).
Also discouraging is that the nation's high school graduation rate in 2010 was 75 percent — so one in four students is failing to obtain a diploma after four years. America's Promise Alliance hopes to see a graduation rate of 90 percent by 2020. Accomplishing that goal “will be won or lost in 13 states,” the alliance said. Those states — Oklahoma is among them — “have the largest numbers of students to get back on track to graduate and they need to be the most aggressive in accelerating their graduation rate by 2020.”
One step in the right direction might be to require youths to turn 18 before they can drop out. Now, with permission from parents and school officials, Oklahoma students can bail at age 16.
We've said often that efforts must increase to get a better grip on the number of dropouts, study why teens are leaving and identify potential dropouts early. But a law that drives home the importance of education to students and parents sure couldn't hurt.