The Los Angeles Times published an article last week titled “1 in 4 California high school students drop out, state says.” The story indicates that the extent of the dropout crisis in California is worse than expected — and spotlights an issue that should concern everyone in this nation.

And to try to obtain even more reliable information on this serious problem, California is now tracking students by an identification number so that it is clear whether they transfer schools or drop out. The tracking system will reportedly cost $33 million and will provide better information about students who dropout such as their reasoning for leaving high school and where they go after they leave.

According to the Los Angeles Times article:

For the state overall, it [high school drop out rate] was 24.2%, up substantially from the 13.9% calculated for the previous school year using an older, discredited method. Statewide, 67.6% of students graduated and 8.2% were neither graduates nor dropouts. The last category included those who transferred to private schools or left the state.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, while commending the efforts to examine these numbers, emphasized that it is equally, if not more important, to look at the reasons behind the large dropout rates. And according to the article:

Jack O’Connell, state superintendent of public instruction, presented the new data, based on the 2006-07 school year, as a quantum leap forward in understanding the nature of the dropout problem. But, he said, “no one will argue that the number of dropouts is good news. . . . It represents an enormous loss of potential.”

Loss of potential. Clearly. With the job market looking less and less welcoming to young people, and with employers demanding higher academic and applied skills, it is a scary thought that many will enter the workforce so ill equipped to succeed.

For comprehensive information prepared by Corporate Voices for Working Families about workforce readiness and how the business community can help participate in solving the challenges facing our young people, visit our Corporate Voices website.

by Allison Keyser