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New Report Calls Half the Miami Area High Schools "Drop Out Factories"

November 19, 2009

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Forty percent of the students in half of the high schools in the Miami area either drop out or graduate late. This alarming statistic is one of many in a new report by the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Florida's drop-out rate, one of the highest in the nation, also is costing millions in lost income to both the students and their communities, according to the report, and the situation could worsen as budgets are cut.

In the Miami area, more than 33,500 students dropped out of the class of 2008. If even half of them had graduated, the report says, that group would have earned nearly $212 million more in a year than they will now. They also would generate more than $16 million a year in additional property, income and sales taxes, due to higher salaries and increased spending.

Bob Wise, the former governor of West Virginia, is president of the Alliance, says all Floridians should be concerned.

"Turning high school dropouts into graduates is in the direct interest - the economic interest - of everybody in the community. Diplomas create dollars. In a time like we're in today, clearly the best 'economic stimulus package' is a diploma."

The report refers to 52 Miami area high schools as "drop-out factories." Wise says if they can be turned around, more than half of those who would have dropped out would go on to college and increase the quality of the workforce.

Florida educators fear the problem will only get worse without additional revenue for schools.

Mark Pudlow, spokesperson for the Florida Education Association, believes the drop-out rate will continue to climb because schools are being forced to drop extracurricular activities and elective classes - the things that help keep kids in school.

"Simply because you're going to see students have fewer options to engage in the things that interest them, you're going to see a higher drop-out rate in the future."

He says Florida schools need to make some changes to decrease the drop-out rate, including reducing the practice of holding kids back with a younger age group, and reducing the amount of standardized testing.

"A couple of the things that we do, we need to stop doing. For example, when you retain students in a grade, you greatly increase the chance that they will drop out. And if students don't do well on tests, they lose interest in school."

More information is available at http://all4ed.org/press_room/press_releases/11192009.

Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL