November 23 — 12:00 am, 2006

Dimensions of the dropout crisis

A comprehensive study of Philadelphia’s school dropout problem, titled Unfulfilled Promise: The Dimensions and Characteristics of Philadelphia’s Dropout Crisis, 2000-2005, and written by Ruth Curran Neild and Robert Balfanz of Johns Hopkins University, was released in October.

The report’s key findings include:

  • Only about half of Philadelphia’s high school students graduated on time in four years during the period studied. The percentage graduating within six years of entering high school fell short of 60 percent.
  • Of the students in the School District’s Classes of 2000-2005, about 30,000 students who began ninth grade here left the system without earning a high school diploma.
  • In a single school year, 2003-04, more than 8,000 students dropped out of school in Philadelphia. Another 5,000 could be labeled “near-dropouts” because they attended less than half the time.
  • Despite differences in severity, dropping out of high school here is a serious problem in all racial and ethnic groups, as well as for both males and females. Graduation rates are lowest for Latino males and highest for Asian females.
  • About half of the future dropouts in the city’s public schools can be identified in eighth grade, based on their academic performance or poor attendance.
  • Eighty percent of the students who eventually dropped out were either at-risk eighth graders or at-risk ninth graders – students exhibiting poor attendance and course failure.

The report Unfulfilled Promises is available online at

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