Viewing blog posts written by Gino DiCaro

Would a business 'make a scrawny horse pull a heavier load with a bigger whip'?

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on July 16, 2008

Two hours ago the California Department of Education came out with their newest form of reporting high school dropouts.  They reported what we basically already knew - that the State's dropout rate was far worse than the reported 13% that was detailed during the last round of data for 2005-06.

According to the CDE,  the dropout rate for 2006-07 reached 24% (and another 8% unaccounted for),  meaning either the State was negligent in the data collection in the past or California more than doubled it's dropout rate in one year.   It's the former no doubt but now we can agree on the tragic nature and the depth of the enigma that exists within the policies of our State's education system.

These new numbers identify the virtual dropout factories that our high schools are slouching toward.  It's time for the State to run it's education like a business.  If a third of a manufacturer's product didn't meet customer needs, consumers would start going elsewhere. Then, the question that would ripple through every department, staff level, budgetary decision and stockholder meeting would go something like this:  How does every dollar spent help meet our customers' needs?   Every dollar would be accounted for, prioritized, and rationalized in terms of product and return.  That's how you react and succeed as a business.

Last week the State approved required algebra 1 for all eighth grade students.   With the dropouts number in mind, what are we getting for the billions of dollars that must go to implement this program?  Experience suggests we will see less electives like CTE in 7th and 8th grades and more drop-outs.  We can't even get a majority of our high school students to pass algebra, now we are going to force more students to fail earlier and provide them with less CTE?

Every newly allocated penny should focus on courses with inspiration and opportunity... together they might even get students to understand or take an interest in basic math or even algebra.   The Sacramento Bee's Peter Schrag said it best in a recent piece:

    "Urging the board to require that every eighth-grader take beginning algebra and the board's overnight agreement to mandate it within three years is like trying to make a scrawny horse pull a heavier load with a bigger whip. At best, it won't work; at worst, it will kill the horse."

Businesses across California understand more than anyone the failure of our high schools to help our kids find inspiration and meaningful careers.  They know because they need skilled and productive workers for their technical and high-wage jobs more than ever.   While companies find every ounce of return on their dollar, and mine for any skilled workforce they can find, our education system just threw more money at a bigger whip.

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