Isn't it about time to: Get serious about drop-outs?

Published August 29, 2018

By Joe Mavretic

by Joe Mavretic, former House Speaker and NC SPIN panelist, August 28, 2018.

Part of the mission for our Public Schools is,


The 2017-2018 public school year is over in North Carolina. About 9,000 high school students dropped out last year. That’s over a bus-load each school day.

North Carolinians should remember these average numbers about high school drop-outs when compared to high school graduates:

 Most drop-outs end up in the lowest fourth of wages and make about ten thousand dollars    less a year.                                                                                                                                                                        About two-thirds of our prison inmates  dropped out of school,                                                          Drop-outs have shorter lifespans.                                                                                                              Drop-outs do not vote as often.                                                                                                                  Drop-outs are less likely to marry and have a  family.                                                                                The total social costs of one drop-out is  estimated to be about a quarter million dollars.  

 Dropping out of school is a clear reflection of a family, a neighborhood, teachers, principals, LEAs, school boards, county commissions and our state. In the words of Cool Hand Luke’s warden, "It is a failure to communicate." And this failure begins long before formal schooling begins.

 In a broad sense, GRADUATION means to SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETE a task. We can say that a child has graduated to using a knife&fork or tying shoes. We applaud graduating from black and white to colors and to saying our ABCs. Parents are delighted when their child gradually, but finally, connects four fingers, four apples, and four dogs with the numeral 4. What a joy it is when a child can go potty, brush teeth, take a bath, get a glass of milk and dress for bed.  From birth through high school, life is a series of graduations-of successful completions of assigned tasks.

  If families and neighborhoods have taught and emphasized the habit of successfully completing tasks BEFORE starting school, that habit can be encouraged and reinforced in class, through homework, recitals, during tests, by grades and academic advancement. Our schools are beginning to "Graduate" students from fifth to sixth grade and from eighth to ninth grade in addition to graduating from high school. These are positive examples of reinforcing a successful completion. If anyone is interested in innovative approaches to establishing a connection between school and family, take a look at Barwell Road Elementary School in Wake County. That school has a principal who "Gets It."

 Going to school is the first real job a child has. This job creates a major part of the foundation for a successful life. There are at least 24,300 opportunities for each student to successfully complete a task during the thirteen school years in North Carolina. We cannot afford to have students drop-out. If ever there was a "Zero Tolerance" situation-Dropping Out is it. Unless we reduce North Carolina’s current rate, every week this school year at least 250 North Carolina kids will drop out and face a marginal lifetime!

 What we DO NOT need to do is search for ways to hide our drop-out rates. A school’s drop-out rate should reflect the conditions inthat school building. Local school superintendents, local school boards and county commissioners have to know what’s actually going on in a school instead of seeing some carefully massaged statistic.

 Isn’t it about time to reduce our real drop-out percentage? 

                      ESSE QUAM VIDERI