Note: Casey, Krista, and Janetta all spent spring term 2013 volunteering with students at Parkrose High School in classrooms and with the SUN after school program. This volunteer work was part of their senior Capstone (Enhancing Youth Literacy) at Portland … Continue reading
Note: This is the first post in a series from three volunteers in PSU’s Enhancing Youth Literacy Capstone. These three students worked at Parkrose High School as part of their coursework for the term. The post series is an in-depth look at the struggles that local high school students go through and the hope for their future.
Some of my first observations during my time at Parkrose High school were how nice the school looked from the outside and inside the building. The school looked to be a newer school with new technology throughout the classrooms. The classroom where I was positioned seemed to have a new projector for lectures. The teacher would take roll on her tablet and there was a classroom set of tablets for the students. The teacher would use them for some part of the lecture. The classroom honestly felt like a small college classroom in my perspective. The school looked like it had many resources to fulfill students’ needs accordingly.
I took some time to look more in-depth at how Parkrose High school was achieving when compare to the Portland Public School district of Multnomah County in Oregon. I was able look at graduation rates of PHS and comparing them to PPS. I took in consideration the averages and median rates of both districts to perhaps remove any outliers that might affect the average. The results I found for Portland Public Schools were an average percentage of on time PPS graduations was 73.36% in 2012. The median number of on time graduations for PPS was 76. Then the results for Parkrose High school were a bit lower. The percent of graduation in 2012 was a 69%. When comparing to the larger PPS district in Multnomah County, Parkrose seemed to be a bit “under achieving”.
There are 55 high schools in the state of Oregon with an on-time graduation rate below 50%. In addition, there are 27 high schools in the state with an on-time graduation rate of 90% or higher. Clearly there is a distinct line of separation. Out of the 46,724 students in the 2012 class, the state had an average on-time graduation rate of 68%. Of that class, there were 9,780 dropouts and 4,185 students enrolled for a 5th year.
So where does Parkrose High School fall? Of their 271 student class for 2012, there were 50 dropouts, 31 students enrolled for a 5th year, and they were slightly about average with an on-time graduation rate of 69%. Parkrose came out with a Level 3 (Middle tier) Performance Rating. With two rating levels (4 & 5) above them, Parkrose still has room for improvement. However, they are far from the bottom of the pack. Based on their on-time graduation rate and performance rating, it can be inferred that Parkrose High School, in comparison to the rest of the state, is ‘average.’
See the link below for additional state and school specific graduation rates.
Based on data collected from the states for the Class of 2010, the National Center for Education Statistics estimated that 78% of students across the country earned a diploma within four years of starting high school. The graduation rate was last at that level in 1974.
Students in Maryland and Virginia had higher graduation rates than the national average — 82.2% and 81.2%, respectively.
It is common for major cities to have a higher dropout rate and lower graduation rate than states. One study found the graduation rate for the Class of 2005 in the United States’ 50 largest cities was 53%, compared with 71% in the suburbs.
Boys dropped out of school in higher numbers than girls in every state. The national dropout rate was 3.8 percent for boys and 2.9 percent for girls.
Dropout rates do not combine with graduation rates to total 100 percent because they do not include students who take longer than four years to graduate or those who earn GED certificates.
As for Parkrose, 50 students dropped out, 31 enrolled for a fifth year, and 69% of the students graduated on time in 2012. This puts them at the low end of the national spectrum, significantly below the average of 78%.
What Students at Struggling Schools Face
Students who attend poorly-funded schools are at a disadvantage when it comes to getting into college, especially since they are forced to compete with students who attend safer, better-funded schools. These schools often offer better books and programs.
An even larger problem is the lack of engagement by the students, for which both they and the teachers are to blame. The students are often jaded by the poor quality of their surroundings, which leads to less interest in academic activities. The teachers can also be guilty of apathy, but the main problem is financial. More money means more programs, more supportive adults, and more proactivity in keeping students interested in their educations.
The workshop I just attended on Legislative Advocacy was facilitated by Barbara Dudley; It and gave a nuts and bolts approach on ways to engage in the legislative process. Discussion ranged from how to get to know and engage with state legislators, to what the various steps of the legislative process look like, and tactical decisions that must go into legislative decision making. Because I think they are worth mentioning, the for basic tactics to keep in mind when attempting to implement a policy are; draft your own legislation, pay close attention to deadlines, make a splash (through use of grassroots organizing), and know your opponents.
The greatest take away from this experience was learning that getting to know members of the state legislature is far easier than some might assume. Not only can you set up individual meetings with them, but also they often hold gatherings at local coffee shops or places where people can come and chat with them about state specific issues of concern. This learning ties in wonderfully with the idea of ‘Civic Communication.’ Having discussions with legislators as well as other community members helps us to “effectively express, listen, and adapt to others to establish relationships to further civic action.” I think this translates into how we interact in the classroom especially, helping to extend the knowledge of those around us through differing experiences. As we engage in discussion in the classroom about our community partner sites, I think drawing connections between our individual experiences will become increasingly important.
My experience at Parkrose High School has, and will continue to allow me to observe areas of students education that appear to be failing, and further address concerns that already exist. I think the workshop puts great emphasis on civic action. Using these considerations when looking at issues of education can be a great step toward addressing issues that are of steady concern. While I may not be the one who seeks to change legislation, I will have a more grounded knowledge of the necessary steps to help provide information to others who are actively seeking to make a change through a policy stantpoint.