WASHINGTON – Alaska Native and American Indians are least likely to graduate from high school,the National Education Association reported this week.
More than 52 percent of students from those groups dropped out from 1992 to 2002,the association reported.
But those students aren't the only ones that experts say are having a hard time staying in school.
Hispanic and black students also had high dropout rates – 44 percent for Hispanics and 48 percent for blacks. For white students,the rate was 22 percent. Overall,29 percent of students dropped out,a number that has changed little over the last 10 years.
To increase graduation rates at public high schools,the NEA released a 12-point plan on Tuesday.
NEA's plan calls for communities to build alternative education centers for students ages 19 to 21 who haven't graduated,a federal law requiring graduation or its equivalency by the age of 21 and $10 billion in federal money over the next 10 years to increase graduation rates.
“We are paying the price folks,socially,economically and politically for a generation that is more likely to be incarcerated than in college,” Reg Weaver,NEA president,said.
The high dropout rates,which Weaver said are caused by a lack of community and family support,are also causing problems for businesses.
Many large companies say they can't hire employees educated enough to do the job.
Kathryn Brown,senior vice president for Verizon Communications,said the company needs a work force that can solve customer problems by using computers. “We are finding it difficult to find people who have these skills,” she said.
The 12-point plan calls for an increase in the number of career and workforce programs at public high schools. It also calls for classes of 18 or fewer students in special programs for students who need extra help,greater community involvement and more cooperation between high schools and post-secondary institutions.
Jan Harp Domene,president-elect of the National Parent Teacher Association,said community involvement is why she graduated from high school.
She said she had considered dropping out to help her family make ends meet until teachers and youth leaders stopped her.
Brent Wilkes,executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens,said the organization has worried about the dropout problem for decades.
“In the 1930s we started a scholarship program,” Wilkes said. “We also have programs geared towards getting students to go to school.”
Scholarships for $500 to $5,000 are awarded to thousands of high school students each year. The Young Readers program promotes reading for first,second and third graders and their parents,teachers and community role models.
Wilkes said that,although the Hispanic dropout rate is decreasing,Congress isn't addressing those students' issues. In August,$3.4 million in federal funding was pulled from the league's 16 education counseling centers in eight states.
A public policy firm,Civic Enterprises,surveyed about 500 dropouts,ages 16-24 from grades 9-12 across the U.S.,to find out what is happening. The group talked to 467 individually and the rest in focus groups in Philadelphia and Baltimore.
John Bridgeland,company president,said the dropouts' stories brought him down to earth about what is really going through their minds.
He said some dropouts believed that with more community support they could have graduated and become teachers,farmers,bankers and other types of professionals.
He said many dropped out because of family problems,peer influence and teenage pregnancy.
“This is not just a Hispanic,Native American and African American problem,” Bridgeland said.
The firm also found that previous studies didn't look at student dropout rates before the junior year in high school. Bridgeland said the dropout rates for freshman and sophomores are not as high.
Recommendations from his group's study mirror the NEA's 12-point plan.
“Students are telling us this is a good plan,and students are telling us that they made a tragic decision,” Bridgeland said.
The NEA report recommends better monitoring of dropout rates by gathering data for racial,ethnic and economic groups and using a standard reporting method.
The Graduation for All Act (H.R. 547),which includes $1 billion for 2007 programs,awaits actions after Congress reconvenes after the mid-term elections.
For more information on states' graduation rates,visit the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research's Web site.