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Cecilia Rouse on the dropout rate

Princeton economics professor Cecilia Rouse explores how the nation’s high dropout rate undermines the nation’s competitive position in the world.



  • Joe Beckmann

    It might be wise to look at the PBS database before attributing innovation outside. Three years ago John Merrow of Learning Matters sponsored a Kellogg Foundation project targeting the “Verified Resume” created by Dr. Arnold Packer, derived from his earlier work in 1992 for the Secretary (of Labor)’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (or SCANS). The key learnings identified twenty years ago and documented just a few years ago through that PBS affiliate were responsibility, creativity, teamwork, inquiry and use of new knowledge, applications of technology, planning, etc., exactly as Dr. Rouse suggests for future students. In other words, we’ve been doing it for 20 years, and, more recently, we’ve been documenting it through your own affiliates.

    For that update, you might look at Learning Matters (, and for its more recent forms, as a general portfolio template, here, and as a presentation to a Harvard Seminar last Spring, here

    In other words, more nicely, you’ve focused on a change strategy which is very successful, very transformative, and pretty old all at once. And tested and verified by your own allies. Congratulations. 

  • LoveMidEd

    When asked why so many students are dropping out of our
    school system, Cecilia Rouse agrees with the observation that the dropout rate begins
    in middle school. She mentions that we should continue concentrating on
    providing resources to elementary age students to strengthen their reading (and
    I will add, their science and math) abilities. 
    She also says that one thing that will help the middle school age
    student is mentorship programs at school to help guide the middle school child,
    and to provide more rigorous courses.  I
    believe that middle school education in this nation has been suffering for
    several years as it is and that, still, people look the other way when it comes
    to “the child in the middle”.  Everyone
    agrees that the middle school years are the most difficult formative years of a
    human being.  We are all aware of the
    several changes we go through during the ages of 11 and 14.  It is during middle school that individuals
    begin to change socially, emotionally, physically, mentally, psychologically
    and even academically.  I’ve seen kids
    who used to be stars in elementary school slowly diminish and become apathetic
    by 8th grade.  Is it because
    they are not challenged enough on top of all the changes they are
    experiencing?  Is this why we are calling
    for more rigorous courses?  I believe
    that this word I keep hearing over and over since last school year, RIGOUR, is
    something that should already be in place BEFORE students reach the middle
    school level.  They should start rigorous
    courses in elementary school.  Teach them
    to think and use common sense from the very beginning and please do away with
    the extrinsic reward system so overly used in elementary education!  Teach them at the elementary  level to appreciate education for what it is
    and not “if you do this, you’ll get this from me” attitude.  Several of our middle scholars come to us
    with this attitude of extrinsic rewarding. 
    Once they realize that middle school is a completely different game where
    they are expected to use essential abilities and effort, many of our students
    lose interest.  Instead, teachers are
    blamed.  I hear my math colleagues
    complain every single year that they are expected to teach high level algebra
    to kids who are not ready for this level math in 8th grade.  This has caused a small exodus of great math teachers
    from our classrooms because the demands are too unrealistic.  Another factor is parental involvement.  Many parents are not prepared for the changes
    their young adolescents begin to exhibit during the middle school years,
    leaving it to the teacher and public school system to deal with.  Ms. Rouse calls for mentorship and this is
    great; I agree that more social workers, Violence Prevention counselors, and
    programs that cater to the emotional changes of our students should be
    increased in middle school.  But I think
    that programs should also be considered to mentor parents who need help in staying
    involved and attentive of their children’s education during this crucial period
    of student life.  Without parental
    reinforcement, the strides taken at the school level will not succeed, no
    matter how hard we try. 

  • Anonymous

    You need to stop coddling these brats and teach the respect and discipline.

  • Jack Westman, M.D.

    The exclusive focus on schools misses the point. The underlying causes of school failures are fragile families. Thriving families produce thriving students who become thriving citizens. 

  • guest

    Dropout rates are high in schools. Why? There are several alternatives. We can play Baseball, Basketball, Golf, Nascar or watch Dancing with the Stars or listen to the i-Pod or texting messages or chat on line, go to facebook or orkut. Come on!  When we have so many options to choose from, why would anyone seriously study or go to school? Education is not considered as important as going to Starbucks, McDonalds or Burger King or Taco Bell or Jack in the Box. Many students enjoy being outside school standing at the corner of streets holding big sign posters for Pizza or Payday Loans or Real Estate Loans or Car Wash.
    What is real is that many Americans live below poverty line. Many of the American households do not have regular income. They are either on welfare or food stamps or holding signs near the traffic lights or freeway on ramps ‘Homeless, will work for food’. This is the reality today.  We need a strong leader who can make some positive change and resolve the problems on hand rather than worrying about winning the election. We need someone like FDR who made some drastic changes after the 1929 Depression. His motivation and dedicated efforts brought major changes such as RailRoad Projects Social Security, and the like. Mere chattering will not make the pot boil.