A recent article in Education Week, which can be found here, highlighted a report with some interesting facts. Here are a just a few. Nearly 75 percent of high school seniors in the U.S. graduated in 2008, up from 72 percent in 2001. Nationally, the number of “dropout factories” – high schools that graduate 60 percent or fewer of the incoming 9th graders four years later – has declined from 2,007 schools in 2001 to 1,746 in 2008. In Kentucky, we went from 39 to 25 “dropout factories” in the same time period.
So what do these numbers mean for business? Let’s consider two more facts to answer this question. First, if the students who dropped out of the Class of 2009 had graduated, the nation’s economy would have benefited from nearly $335 billion in additional income over the course of their lifetimes, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education. Second, as the education documentary Two Million Minutes points out, while 110 million Chinese students are studying English, only 50,000 American students are studying Chinese. That’s 110 million more English speakers that American students will compete with for jobs in a continuously evolving global economy.
Facts aside, Kentucky still has room to improve when it comes to providing the quantity and quality that homegrown workforce needs. Currently, expectations for students are low since they can drop out of school at age 16. The Kentucky Chamber supports raising Kentucky’s dropout age to 18 and the development of alternative learning tracks and learning environments to assist students who are struggling in the standard high school setting. Let’s raise the bar on basic expectations and encourage all students to complete a high school degree and to matriculate toward certificate and postsecondary degree programs – an outcome that will benefit business.