Can $900 MIllion Help St. Louis' Drop Out Rate?

By Sharon Linde | Mon, 03/01/2010 - 10:31pm

President Obama and the U.S. Department of Education announced a new grant designed to help the 5,000 lowest-performing schools over the next five years. A fund of $900 million has been earmarked for the program, called a "school turnaround grant." The administration has committed $3.5 billion in federal support for underperforming schools, taking new measures to reverse trends in schools with graduation rates below 60 percent. According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Missouri’s graduation rate is 85 percent. St. Louis City Schools have a combined graduation rate of 45.9 percent. (Individual county school district graduation rates can be found at http://dese.mo.gov/schooldata/school_data.html.)

In an appearance Monday at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, President Obama said he plans to use the Grad Nation campaign, of which the grant program is just one part, to lower high school dropout rates, which he says are undermining America’s future economic potential. According to the White House, around 1.2 million students drop out of school every year, and half of the dropouts are Latino or black. The president argued underperforming teachers will need to be replaced in struggling school districts, though he also mentioned accountability and higher standards needed to be matched by increased federal funding and parental involvement.

For me, that’s the million-dollar (or 900-million-dollar, as the case may be) question. From where I stand as an educator, I wonder how a price tag is going to increase parental involvement, which research has proven to be the No. 1 reason for students to drop out of school.  Bring on the money, honey, but at the end of the day, I’m not buying it. I don’t believe lobbing money into underperforming schools is going to increase anything more than unnecessary spending.

But that’s just my opinion. What do you think?

 By Sharon Linde, Education Blogger for SmartParenting

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