Over the past several months, Claudio Sanchez – NPR’s longtime national education reporter – has been hard at work assembling a set of stories about dropouts that's going to run all week. The first segment, airing this morning, focuses on a Chicago youth involved with Youth Connections.
As long a project as he’s ever worked on, Sanchez’s quintet of segments comes out of the economic reporting that NPR has already been doing on "Planet Money" – stories that focus on the real-world impact of the recession. In five segments ranging from five to seven minutes each, Sanchez wanted to look at those who were most likely to have been laid off first (or never employed in the first place), and to be unemployed longest (unless jail counts as a form of employment these days). There are apparently some bright spots – kids making progress and programs doing good things to help kids out and get them a diploma. But no doubt the dropout issue, like unemployment and poverty, has been off the front burner of domestic policy too long. Retention and recovery programs get little attention, and accountability and school safety programs create more dropouts as collateral damage. “Suspension and expulsion big contributors to dropouts,” says Sanchez. “Very few states have a handle on that, and schools’ predisposition is to dump people.” Sanchez calls getting accurate honest and up to date data on dropouts “next to impossible” despite several much-touted efforts to do just that. (Recall that in 2005 45 states and the NGA committed to developing a common measure for HS graduation rate.) It's not strictly an education problem, though of course there are substantial educational implications.
Click here for the full set of segments.