Headlines at Hopkins: news releases from across
university Headlines
News by Topic: news releases organized by
subject News by Topic
News by School: news releases organized by the 
university's 9 schools & divisions News by School
Events Open to the Public (campus-wide) Events Open
to the Public
Blue Jay Sports: Hopkins Athletic Center Blue Jay Sports
Search News Site Search the Site

Contacting the News Staff: directory of
press officers Contacting
News Staff
Receive News Via Email (listservs) Receive News
Via Email
Resources for Journalists Resources for Journalists

Virtually Live@Hopkins: audio and video news Virtually
Hopkins in the News: news clips about Hopkins Hopkins in
the News

Faculty Experts: searchable resource organized by 
topic Faculty Experts
Faculty and Administrator Photos Faculty and
Faculty with Homepages Faculty with Homepages

JHUNIVERSE Homepage JHUniverse Homepage
Headlines at Hopkins
News Release

Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University
901 South Bond Street, Suite 540
Baltimore, Maryland 21231
Phone: 443-287-9960 | Fax: 443-287-9920

June 24, 2004
CONTACT: Amy Cowles

High Schools Producing the Most
Dropouts Identified

Graduation is hardly a given for freshmen in 2,000 of America's public high schools, according to a new study by researchers at the Center for Social Organization of Schools at The Johns Hopkins University.

Using data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics, researchers Robert Balfanz and Nettie Legters measured the "promoting power" of 10,000 regular and vocational high schools that enroll more than 300 students. They compared the number of freshmen in each school to the number of seniors there four years later.

The results gathered in their report, "Locating the Dropout Crisis," are troubling. They indicate that the dropout crisis is fueled by the 20 percent of high schools in which graduation is not the norm. These schools have "weak promoting power," or 40 percent or fewer seniors than the number of freshmen they enrolled four years earlier. Nearly half of the country's African American students and two out of five Latino students attend one of these "dropout factories," compared with just 11 percent of America's white students, the researchers said.

The study found that the high schools producing the largest number of dropouts are concentrated in 50 large and medium-sized cites and 10 southern and southwestern states. The study presents tables showing the number and concentration of high schools with weak promoting power by state (broken down by locale and minority concentration) and for the nation's 100 largest cities.

The study looked at the classes of 1993, 1996, 1999 and 2002, and found that the number of high schools with weak promoting power grew substantially during the 1990s. Balfanz and Legters applied the "promoting power" concept to enrollment figures for every high school in the country with more than 300 students. This significantly extends their initial work that examined the 35 largest cities and is the first study to quantify and locate the high schools nationwide that produce the largest number of dropouts.

"The underlying assumption ... is that high schools in which the number of seniors closely approximates the number of freshmen four years earlier will have high graduation rates and low dropout rates because most students will have remained in school, been promoted in a timely fashion and are on course to graduate," the researchers wrote. On the other hand, when a high school has 40 percent or fewer seniors than freshmen four years earlier, it is a strong indicator of high dropout and low graduation rates, they said.

The study does not directly compare the number of freshmen with the number of graduates four years later because the available data tracks graduation rates only by district and state, not by school. Recent controversies have also arisen over how schools calculate their graduation and dropout rates, and there is no national standard.

Other findings:

  • High schools with high minority enrollments are five times more likely to have weak promoting power than schools with a majority of white students.

  • More than half of African American students in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania attend schools where the majority of students do not graduate on time.

  • There are 50 cities in which the majority of high schools have weak promoting power.

  • Nearly half of the nation's dropout factories are in the South and Southwest.

    Balfanz and Legters, who have worked to reform failing high schools for a decade, see several solutions to these under-performing high schools: more effective middle schools so students come to high school prepared; comprehensive high school reform, which includes changes in the way schools are organized, courses geared to the needs and interests of students, and extensive training and support for teachers; and a substantial increase in the resources available to transform or replace the high schools that produce the greatest number of dropouts.

    The authors note that no one strategy or reform model will work for all schools or locations, but point out that a national effort to dramatically improve the education provided to students who attend the 2,000 high schools where graduation is not the norm would bring enormous economic and social returns to the nation. Balfanz and Legters developed and continue to implement and study the Talent Development High Schools model, a comprehensive reform program developed at Johns Hopkins. Talent Development is observing its 10th anniversary with programs in more than 50 high schools across the country. The Baltimore Talent Development High School — the first school founded on the talent development curriculum rather than having it adopted by an existing school — will open in Baltimore this September.

    The complete report "Locating the Dropout Crisis" is available at www.csos.jhu.edu/tdhs/rsch/Locating_Dropouts.pdf.

    To speak with the researchers, contact Amy Cowles at 443-287-9960.

    Johns Hopkins University news releases can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.jhu.edu/news_info/news/
       Information on automatic e-mail delivery of science and medical news releases is available at the same address.

    Go to Headlines@HopkinsHome Page