Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Dropping in on Dropping Out

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Dropping in on Dropping Out

Article excerpt

QUICK, describe the typical dropout! If the picture that came to mind was that of a black male teenager, don't be surprised. The media portrayal of young black men is hardly designed to boost their image, and we've all read and heard those terrible figures about the proportion of black males between the ages of 15 and 24 who are in jail, on parole, or on probation. And we all know that most of them are school dropouts.

However, like lots of other stereotypes, this one turns out to be wrong. Among whites, blacks, and Hispanics, the group with the lowest dropout rate in 1992 was black males. This and many other dropout-related statistics can be found in Dropout Rates in the United States: 1992, published by the National Center for Education Statistics in late 1993.

For black males in 1992 the event dropout rate (the proportion of school leavers in a single year) was 3.3%, just slightly lower than that for white males (3.5%). For both groups, this figure represents an all-time low. Four percent of white females left school in 1992, and 6.7% of black females left school -- a rate more than double that of black males.

Hispanics continue to post the highest event dropout rates of the three major racial/ethnic groups, although their percentages for 1991 and 1992 show improvements over previous years. In 1992 Hispanic males dropped out at a rate of 7.6%, and Hispanic females dropped out at a rate of 9%.

A look at status dropout rates (the proportion of the relevant age group that has not completed school and is not enrolled) indicates that the rates for Hispanics are perhaps misleadingly high because they combine the dropout rates for immigrants with the rates for those who were born in the U.S. Hispanic immigrants have much higher status dropout rates than the first generation of Hispanics born here (43% to 17%). Interestingly, the dropout rate for second-generation Hispanics moves back up to 24%. Other research has suggested that this increase might reflect a disillusionment factor. The immigrants arrive, speak Spanish, and are nostalgic about the old country. Members of the first generation born here tend not to speak Spanish, have no connection to the old country, and hope to realize the American Dream. But the dream remains just that, and, by the time the first generation has children, some disillusionment has set in.

Students who come from well-to-do families seem to believe that continuing in school is worth something. …

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