State Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson called a recently released report on high school graduation rates alarming. She said she is disappointed that State Superintendent Sandy Garrett has failed to explain to the public how high the drop-out rates in Oklahoma actually are and how this impacts the entire state.
The newly released report by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center showed that Oklahoma does slightly better, with 71 percent of students graduating in 2002-2003, compared to a national rate of 69.6 percent.
“That means 29 percent of our students didn’t graduate, and that is simply unacceptable,” said Wilcoxson, R-Oklahoma City. “Additional research tells us those students are virtually doomed to lives of poverty because they lack even a high school diploma, yet the Superintendent’s spokesperson said they were pleased by the numbers.”
Wilcoxson said a report by the Alliance for Excellent Education estimated the lifetime earning difference between a high school graduate and a dropout is an estimated $260,000.
“That same study analyzed the impact on each state because of lost earnings due to those students not completing high school. For Oklahoma, the cost is nearly $3.9 billion a year,” Wilcoxson said. “When those students fail to graduate, it not only has a negative impact on their lives, but ultimately, it hurts our entire state.”
Wilcoxson said she was also disturbed at the graduation rates for Indian and black students—each was better than the national average, but still indicated far too many minority students were failing to complete high school.
Oklahoma Indian students had a graduation rate of 62.8 percent, while black students had a graduation rate of 55.9 percent. The national rates were 47.4 and 51.6 respectively.
“That still shows us that more than 44 percent of black students and more than 36 percent of our Indian students are not getting their diplomas. This only perpetuates cycles of poverty and hurts our economy,”
Wilcoxson said. “There is every reason to be alarmed by these percentages, yet the Superintendent is reported to have said this shows Indian students here are doing astoundingly well compared to the national figures. I think that’s very misleading.”
“Instead of trying to put a positive spin on this report, Superintendent Garrett needs to tell the public the truth about what these numbers represent and then develop new approaches that will actually give us results we can celebrate.”