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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Radio Smart Talk: Dropping out of school means less $

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | May 11, 2013 2:55 PM

Radio Smart Talk for Friday, April 19:

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The latest statistics indicate 83% of Pennsylvania students who start ninth grade actually graduate high school.  The numbers are much grimmer for African-American and Latino students who graduate at a rate of less than 66%.  There are school districts in Pennsylvania where less than half of the students who begin ninth grade will receive a high school diploma.

Not only will high school dropouts earn less money over their lifetimes but will also have fewer opportunities to succeed in a career.  In fact, a dropout will earn about $10,000 less in average annual income than a high school graduate and almost $20,000 less than the student who gets a two-year Associates Degree in college.  Obviously, not all high school drop outs go on to break the law, but 82% of prison inmates are high school drop outs.

High school dropouts impact all of us and not just themselves.  A recent study showed that if the students who dropped out of the class of 2009 had graduated, the nation would have benefited from nearly $335 billion over the course of their lifetimes.

Monday's Radio Smart Talk will feature Nathan Mains, the president and state director of Communities in Schools of Pennsylvania.  Communities in Schools is the nation's largest dropout prevention organization.

We'll discuss who drops out and what strategies work to keep kids in school.

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Nathan Mains, president and state director of Communities in Schools of Pennsylvania


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  • Jason Smith img 2013-05-13 08:29

    Sounds to me like a causal fallacy here. If most people incarcerated are unemployed and without a high school diploma, the problem may actually be a lack of jobs for non-high-school graduates.

    These days, a college degree is the equivalent of what a high school degree used to represent. Even to work at a clothing shop, they want a college degree.

    As our society continues to over-educate and under-teach, we see our global competitiveness decline and our ability to produce basic items decrease.

    The other side of the coin is looking at what causes kids to not graduate. It is not necessarily the schools and will not be fixed by pumping more money through that leaky pipe. It is a societal problem, caused by a broad and generation-spanning lack of opportunity—for employees and entrepreneurs.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-13 08:32

    Email from Pamela

    My husband is a high school teacher. Even the best and brightest he works with have very poor reading, writing, and logic skills. They haven't even been trained to think. By the time they reach high school, it's simply too difficult to remediate. The elementary schools are too busy teaching to standardized tests, and providing as few services and teachers as possible because staff and services cost money that rural schools don't have.

    Students don't come to school ready to learn. Many, MOST, are neglected by their parents. Many parents have drug problems or other lifestyle issues that make them inadequate caregivers for their parents. This is a huge issue--it's not about high schools. It's about the whole society and the whole educational system.

    We believe in public education from a philosophical standpoint, but we are considering other options because our son is not getting a good education in public school, and is surrounded by students whose parents are unable or unwilling to properly care for their children at a very basic level. We don't want to be elitists, but we feel like we're being pushed against our will in that direction.

  • Wendelyn Wood Anderson img 2013-05-14 12:26

    I heard this discussion while driving back to Philly after visiting my parents in Hbg. I'm wondering why the things that are happening to our educational system, funding cuts, teacher layoffs, teaching to test, were not discussed in relation to high school drop out rates? Or maybe I missed that part of the discussion? Not to diminish the relevancy or importance of the problem, but speaking about a high school dropout problem right now seems a bit like putting the cart before the horse.

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