Dropout Report

In 1991 I ran for the school board for the second time. My motivation, as always, was making sure our schools did the best they could for kids especially kids who had been given the short end of life's stick. As a teacher I had wondered what happened to the students who transferred out of my class. Into what void did the disappear? When a Duluth school counselor advised me, during the campaign, that the administration was fudging the dropout figures I did my own investigation. I got information from the administration and compared it to the enrollment figures Duluth had given the state. It was obvious that Duluth was over-reporting our enrollment to get undeserved funding from the state but I did not want to risk a libel suit by making this claim directly. Instead, I compiled the following report.

Although I had uncovered fraud on a massive scale I was still more interested in the kids whose departure from school allowed the district to collect more money which didn't do the dropouts a nickel's worth of good.

A Dropout Report for the Duluth Schools  (1991)         Page One

                                        by Harry Welty

One out of five school children in Duluth do not graduate from school and the School District is doing little to improve this dropout rate. Furthermore, this 80 percent rate may be a low estimate. Existing evidence suggests that the graduation rate is, or has recently been, less than 80 per cent. The corresponding dropout rate is at least 20 percent and possibly greater. Except for a very few administrators, the School administration seems unaware that only 80 percent of our children graduate from Duluth's public schools.

The indifference of our administration for its secondary children is clearly described in the "Dropout Report" (this is the pet name for a report with a much longer official title) it commissioned in 1989. The Duluth School District has done little to follow the recommendations in the report in the two years since it was first published.

The findings of the report square with my experiences as a secondary teacher in Duluth. These are some of its findings. (I have italicized my own additional observations.)

A. The School System's record keeping, with regard to troubled students, is lax to the point of negligence. Only one third of our troubled students have reasonably complete academic records.l

B. The school district does little to follow dropouts once they are out of the system. Furthermore, there is great confusion about when a child becomes a dropout. Furthermore, Duluth's alternative schools, in which dropouts can earn a GED, are too often given short shrift by the rest of the school system.

C. With few exceptions, Duluth's dropouts feel that their teachers did not care about them.2 These feelings begin, for the most part, in Junior high and get progressively worse as the child moves through the school system.3

1 Study Report of Early School Leavers from Duluth Public Schools. page 29
2 Study Report of Early School Leavers from Duluth Public Schools. page 22

3 Study Report of Early School Leavers from Duluth Public Schools. page 21


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