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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Survey Says Students and Parents Are to Blame for Dropout Rates

There has been no shortage of criticism unleashed about (or upon) public schools in recent years, with the latest vitriol wrapped in a movie called "Waiting for Superman ".  So, it may appear like old news when word arrives that Stanford University united with the Associated Press recently to conduct yet another survey about what's wrong with schools.  Except what is new(s) about this is that the results of the survey point the accusing finger at a different target.  In this case the subject of the survey was higher education and not K-12 schools, and it addressed the issue of low graduation rates for those students who matriculate after high school graduation to four-year public institutions.  With this data, it now seems like no one has been spared on the battle front.  Continue reading to see why.

Let's first frame this research. The AP-Stanford University poll was conducted during the last week of September, it involved interviews on land line and cell phones with 1001 adults across the nation, and it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.  It was made possible by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

So, what did the survey say?  See the bullets below:

  • seventy (70) percent of respondents said that students should shoulder much of the blame (either a great deal or a lot of it) for low graduation rates, while 45 percent felt that way about parents.
  • between a quarter and a third placed the blame with college administrators, professors, teachers, unions, state education officials, and federal education officials.
  • not to leave out politics, 70 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of Democrats (an anomaly, of course, in that there is agreement here) fault students for low graduation rates.  Republicans were also more likely (ever so slightly) than Democrats to cast blame on federal officials.
  • fifty-seven percent of minorities blame parents while 40 percent of whites do.
  • minorities are also more likely to blame professors and teachers, with 40 percent of the former doing so and just 29 percent of the latter.
  • interestingly, when asked about the quality of schools, public four-year institutions received the highest grades, with 74 percent saying they were excellent or good.  Not far behind, though, were nonprofit private colleges (71 percent), two-year public colleges (69 percent), and private-for-profit colleges (66 percent).  Fifty-seven percent of respondents gave high marks to private for-profit trade schools.
The report indicated that just over half of first-year students who entered college in 2003-04 had NOT earned a degree or certificate within six years, and this is slightly worse than what was found in 1995-96.  According to the Census Bureau, about 4 in 10 adults between the ages of 25 and 64 have a two-year college degree or more.

This survey addressed the relationship between education and the economy as well.  Eighty-percent agreed that the country's system of education has a major impact upon the health of its economy and they also agreed that the economy would improve if all Americans had at least a two-year degree.

So, the verdict here is convincing - the better the education that students experience (and degrees earned), the stronger will the US economy be.  It certainly appears that money spent on education is seen as an investment and not an expense.  And it would appear, too, that the perceived failure of schools to graduate students - at least in higher education - is the fault of students who attend and their parents as well.

But is that what the public really believes?  And is anyone growing tired of this blame game? 

1 comment:

  1. I am. Surveys such as this one are useful in identifying possible factors that contribute to academic failure but they do not propose any solutions. I agree with identifying the variables involved as long as it is in the context of identifying the problem in a specific educational environment.

    Let's use the data we collect and spend the time clearly identifying the problem we are trying to solve and the target population we are attempting to help.

    In the meantime, check this study out if you need anymore support for the relationship between one's education level and living a healthy and productive adult life.