Low high school graduation rates have headlined the education woes of many urban districts, worrying educators and Oprah alike. But the data on dropouts have always been inadequate and rather one-dimensional, denoting that X out of every 100 students fail to graduate. Now, urban districts are starting to take a closer look at who's leaving their schools early and why. Over the past week, Philadelphia and New York each reacted to findings from two independent reports detailing not just how many students fail to graduate high school, but also when and why they veer off the education path. In Philadelphia, for instance, eighth grade is the tipping point--eighth graders who regularly skip classes and fail either English or math have a 75 percent chance of dropping out of high school. New York City's study discovered that 93 percent of dropouts from the class of 2003 had at some point in time fallen behind in accumulating graduation credits. (This takes some pressure off the state's Regents exams, which is often blamed for the dropout deluge.) Knowing you have a problem is the first step in solving it; kudos to these two cities for finally acknowledging their harsh reality. Now let's hope they show the same seriousness in changing it.

"Study Takes a Sharp Look at the City's Failing Students," by Elissa Gootman, New York Times, October 22, 2006

"Dropout crisis in city emerges from research," by Martha Woodall, Philadelphia Inquirer, October 19, 2006

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