high school graduation

high school graduation

Does Class Size Matter in Determining Graduation Rates?

empty class room with desksDoes the size of a high school determine how successful its students will be? When the measure of success is the percent of students who graduate, the answer might just be yes….or it could be no.

MDRC, a research group in New York, studied students in 2010 who attended smaller high schools in New York City and found that these students were more likely to graduate than students who attended larger high schools. There are currently more than 100 smaller schools in NYC and most of these are less than a decade old.

In the past, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave billions of dollars to these schools, but the foundation has since stopped funding due to “disappointing” results.

Perhaps small schools are not all they are cracked up to be. These smaller schools can have a negative effect on larger schools in their area. For example, if a larger school which can enroll 1,000 students is shut down so that a smaller school which can enroll only 500 students can be built, where are the remaining 500 students supposed to go to school? Many of these students are shuffled off into another large school, where they might struggle to adapt, which could cause their grades to suffer.

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The First Students Graduate from Oprah Winfrey’s School in South Africa

Image via Oprah's Facebook page

Oprah Winfrey's School for Girls

Five years ago, Oprah Winfrey opened a school in South Africa for underprivileged girls. On January 14, 2011, the first class of girls graduated from the school and Oprah was there to watch them and offer the graduation speech.

During her graduation speech, Oprah told the girls that they were now “free to soar.” She also offered praise and recognition for the teachers, family members, social workers, and everyone else who has helped make this dream a reality for the girls. For many young people in South Africa, poverty and personal traumas make it impossible for them to become educated. Some of these personal traumas include violence, the death of one or even both parents, molestation, and grief, according to Oprah.

Originally, 75 girls were part of this class of graduating girls. Of those 75, all but three walked across the stage and are now planning to attend universities in the USA and South Africa.

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Albanian Boy Overcomes Many Obstacles to Graduate High School

Grej Pesjaka

When Grej Pesjaka was eight-years old, he suddenly lost his vision in both of his eyes. He was a completely healthy child who liked playing soccer when he lost his eyesight completely in only one day. Doctors in Albania did not know what was wrong with Grej so they recommended that his parents send him to the USA for treatment.

In September 2001, his parents put him on a plane to the USA by himself. Grej did not speak a word of English at the time. When he reached Los Angeles, Chandice Covington, a nurse with ties to Albania who had promised to help Grej, met him at the airport. Grej was rushed to UCLA Medical Center and then to an ophthalmologist in Beverly Hills where he was diagnosed with a retinal disease. An immediate surgery was performed and Grej regained some sight in one eye.

Treatment for Grej’s eye was expected to take years, so his parents and brother moved to the USA. Grej was enrolled in a public school but the school was very large and Grej felt lost between the cracks. Covington then offered to help Grej and his family again by finding him a smaller, private school. Grej enrolled at the Pilgrim School; this small school has a total enrollment of only 400 students. The school also focuses on and embraces cultural diversity and social responsibility.

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School Districts with High Minority Populations Have Lower Graduation Rates

The national high school graduation rate increased by three percent – from 72 to 75 percent – between 2001 and 2008, according to a report by America’s Promise Alliance.

However, this is not as good as it sounds – at least for students who live in high-poverty urban districts. The report discovered that these districts have graduation rates below the national average.

What are these “high-poverty urban districts”?

“One county type stands out in sharpest relief… the counties with large African American populations called Minority Central, set heavily in the nation’s southeast,” according to a report by Patchwork National, a PBS-affiliated reporting project. “Those counties hold only about 4.5 percent of the U.S. population, but they hold more than 15 percent of the high schools with the highest dropout rates.”

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