Monday, May 07, 2007

The Mystery is Over: Exposing the Biggest Reason for New Bedford's Drop Out Rates

New Bedford and Fall River probably have, collectively, the worst drop out rates in the entire state. In New Bedford schools, fewer students finish high school in four years than graduate. It's a sad - but true - statistic.

People like to blame all sorts of things - lousy teaching, not enough student-parent-teacher involvement, not enough funding - and surely, all those things play their roles. However, how can anyone expect high graduation rates when the median household income is $27,569? In comparison, Lynn - another fairly poor city - had a household income about 10k higher.

The real important thing to consider here is this: if a student worrying about whether or not there's going to be food on the table, or how the hell you're supposed to write a paper when they have easy access to a computer, then graduating may not be something every student going into New Bedford High expects of themselves when they're incoming freshmen - and that's a shame, a real shame. Students need a stable environment at home to prosper at school. They need concerned parents - and it's hard to be fully concerned when you're working 60 hours a week, barely making minimum wage, just to pay the rent.

So, how does the state fix the problem? Obviously, jobs is a key answer. Creating opportunities for parents to get their education is too - be it GEDs, specific job training or college. Furthermore, creating a demand for the (very) cheap housing in New Bedford by actually getting that rail built would go a long way to attracting young, educated families. With a few more of those in New Bedford, everyone would benefit by the added expectations they'd have of the New Bedford school system - and they'd be paying taxes to make sure that happened.

One of the real shames of the suburban flight from what's now coined as the "brink cities" in this state during the late 50s and early 60s is the fact that they both robbed cities of a stable tax base that essentially subsidized poorer sections of the city, as well as the fact that they robbed talented students - students that, by being there, would encourage other students to do better. They robbed cities of parents that demanded high quality education and had the means and times to make sure their demands were met. Now, cities have to be rebuilt and new ways have to be found to reattract new people that will emerge in middle classes and want to stay in cities for the added culture they provide.

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