One-Third of a Nation: Rising Dropout Rates and Declining Opportunities

Michael Connolly

Paul E. Barton, Educational Testing Service
February 2005Characteristics of Minority Students Who Excel on the SAT and in the Classroom
Brent Bridgeman and Cathy Wendler, Educational Testing Service
January 2005

Two ETS reports: One analyzes characteristics of minority students who excel on the SAT and the other examines the rising number of high school dropouts. The former study finds expected correlations. Regardless of race, students who do well in rigorous courses tend to have higher SAT scores and vice-versa; most likely these two factors affect each other simultaneously and the report urges all students to take rigorous courses. Of the numerous correlations provided, an especially troubling one compares SAT scores and field of study in college. It finds that "'academic superstars' have almost no interest in teaching (at least no interest in majoring in education)." Those with low scores, however, flock to the field. With an extremely high correlation between teacher intelligence and instructional prowess, the fact that our brightest students have no interest in teaching is worrisome indeed. The second study examines the growing number of high school dropouts, what needs to be done to help them stick it out (or re-enter) and graduate, and the personal and societal effects from these dropouts. In the 1990s, high school dropout rates increased in all but seven states, while students as a whole began leaving at an earlier age. The study cites a shortage of counselors to help deal with troubled youngsters and declining federal funding for "second chance" programs as a cause. Concomitantly, real wages for dropouts have fallen sharply as the global economy demands better trained workers. The current trend in education (tough standards, accountability, and a demand for higher quality) has the potential to slow the dropout trend, but the study also calls for a focused effort to increase school retention. You can find both reports at http://www.ets.org/research/index.html.

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