Dropout Rates in the U.S. Continue to Endanger High School Success


TIME magazine’s current cover story on “Dropout Nation,” along with two days of programming on the Oprah Winfrey Show, has put renewed focus on the dropout problem plaguing America’s high schools. As part of the work of Carnegie Corporation of New York in promoting school district reform aimed at remaking and reinventing the high school experience for American students, it became clear that one obstacle to helping high schools provide high-quality education geared to student success in an increasingly complex, knowledge-based economy, is the high dropout rate.

A recent Corporation Challenge Paper, High School Students At Risk: The Challenge of Dropouts and Pushouts, provides a thoughtful analysis of this crisis, explaining, for example, that the economic impact on dropouts is severe: “Dropouts will more than likely make little more than minimum wage their entire lives, while those with a diploma and/or a few years of college will fare slightly better, and those with a college degree will not only earn substantially more in their lifetime, but will also be less affected by the whims of the labor market.”

The paper also addresses the pushout problem, noting “For years, administrators have nudged troublesome and low-achieving students out the door, but many fear that in recent years, the nudge has become more of a shove, and students are now being pushed out of school at alarming rates.”

The full text of the Challenge Paper is available on the Corporation’s web site.

Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote "the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding." As a grantmaking foundation, the Corporation seeks to carry out Carnegie's vision of philanthropy, which he said should aim "to do real and permanent good in the world." The Corporation's capital fund, originally donated at a value of about $135 million, had a market value of $2.2 billion on September 30, 2005. The Corporation awards grants totaling more than $80 million a year in the areas of education, international peace and security, international development and strengthening U.S. democracy.