New report examines reasons King County students leave high school before graduating

Too many students leave high school before securing a diploma. In our most recent Opportunity Washington Scorecard, we cited the problem as a reason for the drop from No. 18 to No. 25 among the states in our Achieve ranking.

Our state drops seven spots in the Achieve ranking and nine points in the category score as compared to the most recent update. This is due to a drop in graduation rate from 79.7 for the class of 2016 to 79.4 for the class of 2017. Washington also saw drops in 4th grade reading and 8th grade math performance, as well as lower associate’s and bachelor’s degrees awarded per capita.

In The Seattle Times, Neal Morton reports on a new study published by the Road Map Project and conducted by the Community Center for Education Results (CCER), Seattle Education Access (SEA), and University of Washington School of Social Work (UW) that examines why students are leaving high school without a diploma. Morton writes,

In South King County, more than 18,000 youth don’t have a diploma or a job, and that number increases by nearly 2,000 youth each year. A new report may help explain exactly what persuaded these youth to leave school in the first place — and what can be done about it.

“Homelessness, mental health, the impact of racism at school. … It’s not one factor (but) a culmination of things that ultimately may lead to somebody’s disengagement,” said Danika Martinez, a program director for Seattle Education Access (SEA)…

This graph from the report identifies the reasons for disengagement.

Morton reports,

The survey found that 26% of about 300 students listed school climate — a factor that touches on how safe or welcome they feel on campus — as the primary reason they disengaged.

Another 25% cited their academic struggles, while health and wellness, family instability, parenthood and homelessness presented additional barriers.

“One of the things that really stood out was the amount of students who told us they didn’t know they weren’t on track to graduate until late … sometimes spring of their senior year,” said Henry Joel Crumé, lead author of the report and a doctoral student at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work.

In 2016 we reported on a Washington Roundtable study identifying “the leaky pipeline” to postsecondary success.

We wrote then ,

Of 80,700 students entering 9th grade, about one-quarter of them, 20,100 will drop out before graduation. Those students have a mountain to climb to reach a career job.  

The problem remains. Research like that produced the Road Map project can help find solutions and expand opportunities for young people in our state.