Foss: Low graduation rates cause for concern


College isn’t for everyone. 

Some people will be better off entering the workforce, or learning a trade, or joining the military. 

High school’s a different story. 

High school’s for everyone — or at least it ought to be. 

There are real disadvantages to dropping out of high school. 

You’ll earn less money than your peers who finished high school, and it will be more difficult to get a job and stay out of poverty. Your health will likely be worse, and you’re more likely to get involved in crime and go to prison. 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “… the average high school dropout costs the economy approximately $266,000 over his or her lifetime in terms of lower tax contributions, higher reliance on Medicaid and Medicare, higher rates of criminal activity and higher reliance on welfare.” 

This bleak outlook explains why raising high school graduation rates is an important and necessary project, and why we should be troubled when a district’s graduation rate is especially low. 

Today’s high school dropouts are the struggling adults of tomorrow, their prospects diminished by a failure to finish high school. 

The state Department of Education released high school graduation rates for schools throughout New York on Wednesday, and it was truly a mixed bag for districts in the Capital Region.

Some districts improved, while others lost ground.

The Schenectady City School District’s graduation rate was essentially unchanged, at 59 percent. 

That’s clearly not good enough, and it suggests more needs to be done to reach the 40 percent of Schenectady High School students who will drop out before graduation day. 

It’s no exaggeration to say that the high number of dropouts each year constitutes a crisis for a community where poverty already entrenched. 

Young dropouts are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than college graduates, and a whopping 63 times more likely to be incarcerated, according to the U.S. Department of Education. 

If we want Schenectady to be healthier and safer places to live, reducing the high school drop-out rate is a must. 

Another local district with a drop-out problem is the Gloversville City School District, where 66 percent of students graduated in 2018. 

Statewide, the graduation rate for 2018 rose slightly, from 80.2 percent to 80.4 percent.

That’s good, but not good enough. 

An education advocacy group called America’s Promise Alliance wants to see 90 percent of high school students graduate by 2020, and while the country’s school districts are unlikely to meet this goal, a dropout rate of 10 percent or less is what we should be striving for. 

Life is much harder without a high school diploma. 

If we want young people to succeed, we need to do everything we can to keep them in school until graduation day. 

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.


Categories: Opinion

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