You are here

Home » News » Interesting, Terribly Disturbing Dropout Data

Interesting, Terribly Disturbing Dropout Data

Release Date: 

March 26, 2014

This interesting data available on the ERDC website shows the dropout rates as a whole, but also shows them disaggregated by grade and by demographics.

This is interesting data, but of course it’s also terribly disturbing.  Each data point is a young person whose life prospects are significantly and sometimes irreparably harmed.  Sometimes the decision to dropout is based on apathy. In other cases, it’s essentially a forced choice — driven by trauma and circumstances in their life, such as homelessness and other seemingly overwhelming obstacles. This is some of the most troubling data we look at in K-12.

Analytically, there are some noteworthy trends in the data. Immediately obvious is the declining dropout rates by grade over time – certainly good news. Yet, there are some interesting spikes in the data. One wonders what happened in 2003-04, when 12th grade dropout rates went through an interesting one year drop, then rebounded. Whatever impacted the 12th grade curve that year did not have the same impact on grades 9, 10, or 11; while 12th spikes up, the others continue down.

A total of 14,045 were classified as dropouts from WA public high schools in 2010-11. Although the dropout rate is generally highest in 12th grade, nearly 9,000 students dropped out in grades 9-11. Over half of these students were classified as dropouts because they had an "unknown" enrollment status; some may have dropped out, received a GED, or moved out of state without confirming a transfer to a new school.

Also interesting (though heartbreaking) is the trend in the dropout rates across grades in a single year. For the ‘all students’ group, rates gradually climb upwards, with the senior year showing a noticeable increase from junior year, and senior year typically being about double that of freshmen year. The incline is generally steady.

But this trend line does not hold true for all subgroups. You’ll notice that for our Language Learner students, the dropout rate as seniors is nearly three times that of freshmen; producing an atypical spike in the senior year.

Table showing 2010-11 dropout rates for each high school grade (and in total), for each student group and for the all students group

A similar trend presents for males. Male and female dropout rates are fairly parallel up through the junior year. The senior year, they split, with the male rate nearly 38 percent higher (8.0% compared to 5.8%).

For these three points in the data – senior year spike in 03-04, and ELL and gender senior year disparities – I would be interested in hearing your hypotheses. What do you think explains these troubling trends? How can we combat them? (Please respond by sending me an email.)

~ Ben Rarick,
Executive Director

Media Contact: 

Alissa Muller, SBE Communications Manager, (360) 725-6501