State dropout rate rising

2010-07-27T03:15:00Z State dropout rate risingBy Charles S. Johnson of The Standard State Bureau Montana Standard

HELENA — Montana ranks among the bottom 10 states with teenagers ages 16 to 19 who have dropped out of high school before graduating, the Annie E. Casey Foundations Kids Count reported Monday.

Nine percent of Montana teens fell into this category in 2008 to rank 44th worst among the states, the Kids Count Data Book said. That compares with 7 percent in 2000 for a 29 percent increase. Kids Count uses both 2008 and 2007 statistics in the 2010 Data Book.

In contrast, the national trend in this category is down 45 percent. The number of teens aged 16-19 not in school and who haven’t graduated has fallen from 11 percent in 2000 to 6 percent in 2008, for a decrease of 45 percent, the report said.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau said Montana’s dropout numbers are higher because the state now has a more thorough way to track students, who may transfer to other schools, through a student identification number.

Despite that, Juneau said, “Our dropout rate is high, and we need to do something about it.”

Her office has put together some initiatives to take to the 2011 Legislature, including a proposal to require students to stay in school until they are 18 or until they graduate. Students now can drop out when they turn 16.

“It’s important to set a policy at the state level that we expect everyone to graduate from high school at a minimum,” she said.

In addition, Juneau is proposing a state plan based on Graduation Matters Missoula, which local Superintendent Alex Apostle started. It is a partnership among the mayor, local businesses and schools to emphasize the importance of high school graduation.

“We want to scale it up in Montana, and hopefully down the line, once it gets going, every school could decide to pick up the idea and best use the resources,” she said.

Ten percent of Montana teens from ages 16 to 19 who have dropped out of school and are not working, and the state ranked 39th nationally, according to the Kids Count Data Book. For the entire country, the rate was 8 percent. Similar statistics were not collected for 2000.

More than one out of five Montana children, or 21 percent, lived in poverty in 2008, for the state to rank 38th nationally, the Kids Count report said. This is defined as the percentage of incomes below $21,834 for a family of two adults and two children in 2008. That’s a 24 percent increase from 2000 when 17 percent of Montana children lived in poverty. 

Nationally, the percentage of children living in poverty has increased from 17 percent in 2000 to 18 percent in 2008, for a 6 percent increase, Kids Count said.

Rep. Mary Caferro, D-Helena, who heads the anti-poverty group called Working for Equality and Economic Liberation, said she’s not surprised by the figures. 

“I think it’s a moral obligation to take care of our children,” Caferro said. “Some of us are really going to have to do more with less for others to survive. We do that by policies that create upward mobility. We’re going to need to sacrifice.”

During the 2009 Legislature, Caferro said she and some others called for a more targeted approach to spending federal stimulus dollars. They expressed the concern that federal stimulus money was going to “step right over the people who need help the most,” she said. One stimulus-funded program was targeted at this group.

Montana also saw its percentage of low birth-weight babies increase to 7.2 percent in 2007 to rank 18th nationally. That’s up from 6.2 percent in 2000, for an increase of 16 percent. 

Nationally, the trend rose from 7.6 percent in 2000 to 8.2 percent in 2007, for an increase of 8 percent. 

The state’s infant mortality rate, or deaths per 1,000 live births, grew to 6.3 deaths in 2007 to rank 13th nationally.  It was at 6.1deaths in 2000, for a 3 percent increase.  

However, nationally, the infant mortality rate dropped from 6.9 deaths percent to 6.7 percent, for a decrease of 3 percent.

Montana’s child death rate, which is the deaths per 100,000 children ages 1-14, improved over the period, but is still higher than the national rate, Kids Count said. Montana had 33 deaths per 100,000 kids aged 1-14 in 2000, and it dropped to 22 in 2007. The state rate ranked 36th among the states.

Nationally, the rate dropped from 22 deaths per 100,000 children ages 1-14 in 2000 to 19 deaths in 2007 for a 14 percent reduction.

Likewise, Montana’s teen death rate dropped, the Kids Count Data Book showed. Montana had 98 deaths per 100,000 teens ages 15-19 in 2000, and it was reduced to 80 in 2997 for a drop of 18 percent, Kids Count said. Montana still ranked 36th highest.

Montana’s teen birth rate, based on births per 1,000 females from ages 15 to 19, remained the same at 37 in both 2007 and 2000, placing the state at 21st best nationally in 2007, Kids Count said.

Nationally, the teen birth rate dropped from 48 in 2000 to 43 in 2007, for a 10 percent drop.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private charitable organization that seeks to help improve futures for disadvantaged children in the United States.


Copyright 2015 Montana Standard. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(4) Comments

  1. vanessad
    Report Abuse
    vanessad - July 27, 2010 8:09 pm
    oldie - what was your point? That thinking like yours has exacerbated the problem? Yeah, all US presidents have received a college (and beyond) education. In addition, some have fought in the military, despite having come from privileged backgrounds (JFK, Eisenhower, etc.)

    The problem isn't Obama, or Bush or other presidents. The problem is that education is not valued among many different groups in the US. Everyone wants to be a singer/actor - no one wants to be an engineer or scientist!

    The US needs to develop different policies (NOT NCLB!) that rewards/disciplines teachers, provides practical knowledge of math, science, history and arts, and inspires children to teenagers to develop their minds and talent, rather than showing them how to study for a comprehensive test.

    Montana is in a precarious position; we need to harness our potential, while acknowledging our obstacles. Our children deserve better, and WE (MT) could be at the forefront of an educational revolution, provided our elected officials (on BOTH sides of the aisle) listen and respond.
  2. oldie
    Report Abuse
    oldie - July 27, 2010 3:19 pm
    Those who make the rules don't have dumb kids like us. Their kids are all above average, much smarter than our kids. What do you expect, they are of the ruling class. But then our kids don't need much of an education where they're going, do they. No, you don't need to be a national merit scholar to get into the Army, or McDonald's, or prison, do you. There's a place for everybody in this world of ours. Just keep voting for the Harvard grads like Obama and Bush. It's their kids who really count anyway, isn't it, not ours? Our kids can't count, so they don't count. That's what we always vote for anyway, why stop now?
    Report Abuse
    MKULTRA - July 27, 2010 10:46 am
    I bet if the schools intelligence wasn't stupid they wouldn't have this problem.
  4. mtntamer
    Report Abuse
    mtntamer - July 27, 2010 10:46 am
    remember no child left behind? I know where we live the high school forced kids out so their numbers looked better. they put the kids on so called contracts if their grades didn't go up they were kicked out of school,they also had kids not doing well talked into Job Corp. I think the change needs to start at the top. I know where these new laws are going if passed they will blame the par4ent and if you 16-18 year old refuses to go to school it's the parents fault and they will be fined and or go to jail. I foind the school system is to fast to blame the parents when in fact they can and are the problem at times. back in my day teachers taught but a lot today are there for a check and vacation. I'm also surprised the federal government doesn't take over running the state as we are always the worst at a lot of things when it comes to statistics. I dunno how we get along with out having our hands held. But like always we can blame the state. If a law like these inept people of education gets passed. i will move to another state with the kids. they can't even get the marijuana law right what are they doing messing around with education

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