- Despite an average graduation rate in California that hit 83.2% in 2016 and a promise from Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Michelle King to hit a 100% graduation rate, University of California Santa Barbara Professor Emeritus Russell Rumberger says poverty will remain too high a wall to scale for many students, EdSource reports.
- Rumberger, who directs the California Dropout Research Project, also describes a high school diploma as a "blunt instrument" that "doesn’t really tell us too much about what a student has learned," and he is seeking to complete research in the next few years on what students are really learning — particularly among underrepresented groups like Latinos who have made considerable graduation gains in recent years.
- Among expected areas of exploration in that research are "credit recovery" or online courses used to help students graduate on time in place of retaking a full course, EdSource reports, in addition to how students are being prepared for higher education or careers.
Poverty remains a significant hurdle to achievement for many students, and while those struggles have gained more attention in recent years, they are still far from being solved. California, for example, has over 200,000 students considered homeless under federal standards, and that population has risen 20% since 2014.
Families facing poverty are unlikely to have the same resources — like books, broadband internet and access to some extracurricular services or activities — that enable success among students from more affluent families or communities. And many may have home situations that combine several households in a single dwelling or parents who are incarcerated, which isn't conducive to concentration or learning. Add on the likelihood of food insecurity and the situation then demands that the effects of hunger on student engagement be taken into consideration.
To address these issues, schools can start by reaching out to the local community for food drives and assistance with volunteer programming. But administrators must also engage lawmakers to drive home the needs that they're seeing in their schools and make the case for additional supports.