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State ranks poorly in high school dropouts

2010-07-27T00:00:00Z State ranks poorly in high school dropoutsBy CHARLES S. JOHNSON IR State Bureau Helena Independent Record

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 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 nationally. 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 best 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 6.1 deaths 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 2007 for a drop of 18 percent, Kids Count said. Montana still ranked 36th highest.

Montana’s teen birthrate, 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, teen birth rates 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 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(32) Comments

  1. myopin
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    myopin - August 02, 2010 11:19 am
    In order to keep my grandchild out of the public school system - will be working two jobs this winter - it will so be worth it.
  2. Doglover
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    Doglover - July 28, 2010 11:54 am
    abodox33 My daughter did graduate with very poor grades. She was had to take night school do to teachers not responding to our request and inquires. I do agree that parents are the key in their childs future but sometime a parent can only do so much. I know that I got extremely frustrated and upset how my daughters case was handled. I often thought about pulling her out of the public school system and let her finish elsewhere but what would that prove, maybe that the school had won. I chose to keep her in school and made her try harder. It made her a stronger individual I can tell you that. I think that the school system needs to go back to the day when teachers where there for teaching and not June, July and August
  3. abodox33
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    abodox33 - July 28, 2010 10:32 am
    Doglover: I am truly sorry to hear the story of your daughter and can not imagine how hard that was for you and your entire family! But you clearly missed my point in my comment. If you don't mind me asking, was there a way in the system that she was able to achieve her diploma or GED at a later time? If so, then maybe the system is not as flawed as you imply. If not, then I completely agree that the system is flawed and needs to be fixed as soon as possible. My point was that parents are the key element in the success of their childrens future and that people should focus on that element rather than immediately pointing thier fingers at the "system." And to requote myself from my earlier post, "Problems in the school system can be fixed much easier than a widespread lack of parenting in any community." I believe that I have a valid point on this subject and have every right to comment on it.
  4. Silent_Majority
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    Silent_Majority - July 28, 2010 8:22 am
    GoMariners said: "How is this the school's fault that your child isn't going to school? Why don't you take responsibility as a parent. "

    I looked at my posted trying to read where I said it was the schools fault? Maybe you could point that out to me? The point I was trying to make and failed at was I would like to see the Middle school have some authority to ensure that kids in middle school attend middle school and are allowed to only miss so many days. Like many families in this world the court has ordered both parents custody of their children. When the children are with the other parent that parent has the right to parent them as they see fit. So if that means they think it makes sense for them to miss 40% of their classes there is nothing the other parent can do. If there were rules in place at the middle school level like high school that says kids can only miss 10 days then it would make it much easier for the other parent to press the issue of the child not being in school. Sorry to have offended you GoMariners..
  5. helenros
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    helenros - July 28, 2010 8:18 am
    It is quite appropriate to spend stimulus money on this issue, as high school graduates are more employable.
  6. The Big L
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    The Big L - July 28, 2010 8:00 am
    The dropout rates shouldn't surprise anyone. Just read through the comments on this site daily and it should be obvious.
  7. SpaceGhost
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    SpaceGhost - July 28, 2010 1:43 am
    Doglover that is a sad story, I hope your daughter is better, and I agree that the way the school handled your daughters case was atrocious.
  8. Bojangles
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    Bojangles - July 27, 2010 10:57 pm
    I just love Purple and his posse. Its the school's fault that kids are dropping out?!

    What happened to 'its the parents responsibility to raise children and instill them with good character and blah blah blah... '

    You do realize that your ridiculous comments are posted so that everyone can read them, right?
  9. htowngrl
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    htowngrl - July 27, 2010 6:51 pm
    I am a high school drop-out. I would have graduated in 2007 but chose to go get my GED and attend college in 2005. I made my choice because I was struggling in school and had repeatedly tried to seek help from teaches. I spoke to my assigned counselor and anyone who would listen but to no avail. I looked at my options and made the best choice for me. I don’t blame the school system but I do believe they need to offer an outreach program. I would have loved to get my diploma I cried the day my own class graduated, but by dropping out I also gave myself head start or at least that’s how I see it.
  10. getaclue
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    getaclue - July 27, 2010 5:28 pm
    Actually Go-Mariners, welfare parents are raising welfare kids. People who repeatedly get entitlements will more than likely be teaching their kids to do the same.
    When was the last time you saw Big Mama in Wal Mart with three carts full of junkfood telling her screaming out of control sugar high kids, that they should work hard and not be like "me".....................crickets............crickets...........
    get rid of welfare in it's entirety and you will see results guaranteed!
  11. dogslife
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    dogslife - July 27, 2010 5:01 pm
    Speaking from experience - Not a welfare parent, am single parent, remember to include that as a reason for the dropout rate. Have worked 2 jobs for 10 years, and yes, I am tired, but there was health insurance and plenty of food on the table.

    But let's take a look at a headstrong daughter - knows everything. Bullied by the dance squad enough she gave up on that dream. Then went to the school and asked for a reduced schedule while she went through her difficulies and was told "no". Oh yeah, they kept tennis and basketball but took away the design class where she could have trained for a future. Quit at 16, had her GED 2 months later, has worked for 4 years now, and attended a community college. She is making more money than a lot of individuals because she grew up early. Still headstrong, and still knows everything, but still young enough to learn.

  12. Doglover
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    Doglover - July 27, 2010 4:45 pm
    To abodox33, you have really hit a sore spot for me. I am a parent of two children who went through high school here in Helena and let me tell you that the school does fail in a lot of aspects. My son graduated with honors where as my daughter barely graduated. Both of my kids where brought up the same. My daughter had a stroke at the beginning of her senior year and there were some teachers who worked with us during her time of recovery and some that did not. Yes I blame the school. I emailed and called the school several times regarding this. I even called the so called superitendant that we have with no avail. The answer that I got was well she needs to be responsible for her work. WHAT you tell me that a child at 17 who had a stroke needs to be responsible for the work. She missed almost a month and a half of school because we were and still are trying to find answers for her stroke. The school system is a hurting industry here in Helena. I did my best with what the teachers gave me to help my daughter at home but I was still left in the dark on a lot. Until you are in a situation that requires you to have to deal with the school system don't comment
  13. patriot
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    patriot - July 27, 2010 4:45 pm
    The writer basically states Montana ranks as one of the states with the highest percentage for high school dropouts. It is difficult to blame the teachers or the school facilities. Throwing additional money to improve the dropout rate is ludicrous. Over the pst six or seven decades increased funding for entitlement programs and the education system have not proven to bring people out of poverty or increase the graduation rates. It is the parents responsibility to maintain a proper environment and nuture their children to remain in school, graduate and become responsible members of American society. If not they will join the ranks of entitlement abusers and swell the liberal left waanting more handouts. To be blunt " stupid parents, raise stupid kids", just to stir the pot a little.
  14. Think_twice
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    Think_twice - July 27, 2010 3:43 pm
    Wow, kids drop out because there is sex education; they drop out because there isn't sex education; they drop out because the school doesn't make the parents send their kids to school; they drop out because the government helps their parents feed, house and clothe them; they drop out because money is spent on building safe environments; they drop out because new programs are tried and because there isn't enough programs offered. They drop out because of the teachers, the school board, the democrats ..... What ever happen to accountability, responsibility and consequences?
  15. abodox33
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    abodox33 - July 27, 2010 2:22 pm
    Can you people really look at this article and put sole blame on the school system? Take a little bit of responsibility in your own actions, parents. What kind of parent would allow a child to fail in middle or high school? Many children will fail if they are not taught at home the importance of working hard in school. Many other children will fail if their homework and progress is not supervised at home. There will always be the self motivated group of children that will figure it out by themselves, but with decrease parental supervision and motivation, those numbers will drop. Problems in the school system can be fixed much easier than a widespread lack of parenting in any community.
  16. justme59601
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    justme59601 - July 27, 2010 2:12 pm
    excuse me JMWB but you misspoke. obviously you're voicing your opinion on the proposed sex education curriculum. no parent opposed to the curriculum wants their kids to be ignorant on the subject of sex. the parents want to do the teaching themselves, not a school district who can't even teach the 3 Rs adequately.
  17. GoMariners
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    GoMariners - July 27, 2010 2:07 pm
    Silent_Majority said: "As a person speaking from experience, the area they should look at first is middle school. I have a child from an ex~spouse that was allowed to miss as much as 40% of classes in middle school. Knowing that middle school is one of the building blocks for High School how can this happen? In the 3 years of middle school I would say I called 5 times a month and emailed the teachers and Principal and Vice Principal a 100 times pleading to help with my child not attending school. I was told there was no rule that middle school children had to attend so many days of school, unlike High school. So at the end of 8th grade my child has a 0.632 grade point average. Not a really a good base of knowledge to head into high school with. I don’t think kids are dropping out at 16 because they can at that age, I think it’s because they feel hopeless. I’m sure there are many other reasons as to why kids are not graduating. I’m just glad they are addressing it as these are our future.."

    How is this the school's fault that your child isn't going to school? Why don't you take responsibility as a parent.
  18. GoMariners
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    GoMariners - July 27, 2010 2:06 pm
    steeline, do you honestly think that "most" kids are second generation wellfare? That's just absurd and ignorant.
  19. steeline
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    steeline - July 27, 2010 11:16 am
    The dropout rate should not be a supprise in Montana. When we have one of the best entitlement programs in the country. Most kids now are second generation welfare kids. Mom and Pop are on welfare and don't work or even finish schooling. Why should the kids? The government feeds the kids breakfast lunch and in some cases dinner, the folks collect food stamps,(too lazy to fix meals for thier kids), subsidised rent, free health care, other freebees. Why would a kid want to have anything more. It used to be a bad thing to not be a contributor to society. Now wealfare is one of the best deals around. Where do I sign up?
  20. Silent_Majority
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    Silent_Majority - July 27, 2010 10:33 am
    As a person speaking from experience, the area they should look at first is middle school. I have a child from an ex~spouse that was allowed to miss as much as 40% of classes in middle school. Knowing that middle school is one of the building blocks for High School how can this happen? In the 3 years of middle school I would say I called 5 times a month and emailed the teachers and Principal and Vice Principal a 100 times pleading to help with my child not attending school. I was told there was no rule that middle school children had to attend so many days of school, unlike High school. So at the end of 8th grade my child has a 0.632 grade point average. Not a really a good base of knowledge to head into high school with. I don’t think kids are dropping out at 16 because they can at that age, I think it’s because they feel hopeless. I’m sure there are many other reasons as to why kids are not graduating. I’m just glad they are addressing it as these are our future..
  21. helenros
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    helenros - July 27, 2010 10:10 am
    I think part of the reason our statistics are bad is that other states game the system. My husband just attended a graduation in Oregon, and kids with zero point whatever GPAs were graduating! In Montana we require passing grades in certain classes. A diploma actually means something here. But other states pad their graduation rates with kids who never passed a class. I'm not saying we need to lower our standards, but we do need apples-to-apples comparisons.
  22. EEDad
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    EEDad - July 27, 2010 9:50 am
    Man, but that new parking lot at Four Georgians is going to be SWEET!
  23. The Big L
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    The Big L - July 27, 2010 9:33 am
    So Caffero wanted more stimulus dollars to be spent to keep kids in school. While the overall need is obvious, that's NOT what the dollars were for. Anyone remember the term "shovel ready?" This was about getting jobs going immediately, and it failed.
  24. Sacaudos
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    Sacaudos - July 27, 2010 9:11 am
    As far as the mortality rate is concerned, someone should do a study to determine how many infants and children were in a life-threatening situation and survived, but are now either vegetables or function at only a low level. Just because the mortality rate is down doesn't mean that the outcome of an accident or abuse was still good.
  25. Sacaudos
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    Sacaudos - July 27, 2010 9:07 am
    All students should graduate, but it doesn't necessarily mean they should all take the same curriculum in the last year or two. For those students who clearly appear to be uninterested in going to college or unqualified to go, then they should at least be given practical technical training (vocational trainig), including a period of on-the-job training, to prepare them for the working world. Many other countries provide separate schooling in the last few years to allow for these types of opportunities for those who do not go on to college.
  26. DonaldM
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    DonaldM - July 27, 2010 8:58 am
    This whole issue of "dropouts" is a false god. Without being broken out by demographics, it is meaningless. Also, most data is a result of poor record keeping and inadequate follow up. It isn't worth the time, effort and cost.

    Some large urban districts are paying children to stay in school. Utterly stupid. They still don't learn, because they don't value learning and won't do the effort necessary to cause learning to occur. Then they are given diplomas which they haven't earned and are still illiterate and have no idea how to get or keep a job. They then expect more pay for not working.

    The people running education policy in this country don't have a clue about learning, teaching or human nature and their interrelationships.
  27. Jamesmt
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    Jamesmt - July 27, 2010 8:44 am
    The author of this article casually mentions that there was stimulus money used for this purpose: 'One stimulus-funded program was targeted at this group.' What was the project and why not mention it? Was it the $2m to develop a "virtual high school in coordination with Montana University System"? Probably not. It could be Proj ID 690100000000026 - "Volunteers in Srvs to America" which specifically states VISTA members work with communities on "school dropout" among other things. BTW, the latest Stimulus Report(March 2010) from the State of Montana lists $100,000 as unallocated for this project.
  28. Silent_Majority
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    Silent_Majority - July 27, 2010 7:53 am
    As a person speaking from experience, the area they should look at first is middle school. I have a child from an ex~spouse that was allowed to miss as much as 40% of classes in middle school. Knowing that middle school is one of the building blocks for High School how can this happen? In the 3 years of middle school I would say I called 5 times a month and emailed the teachers and Principal and Vice Principal a 100 times pleading to help with my child not attending school. I was told there was no rule that middle school children had to attend so many days of school, unlike High school. So at the end of 8th grade my child has a 0.632 grade point average. Not a really a good base of knowledge to head into high school with. I don’t think kids are dropping out at 16 because they can at that age, I think it’s because they feel hopeless. I’m sure there are many other reasons as to why kids are not graduating. I’m just glad they are addressing it as these are our future..
  29. JMWB
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    JMWB - July 27, 2010 6:42 am
    A high drop out rate and a 38% illegitimate birth rate. Very special. Yep, we're on par with poor southern states like Alabama and Mississippi. Great. And too many community members still want their children taught ignorance, excuse me, I mean abstinence.
  30. wildwilly
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    wildwilly - July 27, 2010 5:47 am
    Now THIS is a problem our school board should be trying to solve.... Instead of focusing on teaching them sex, how about the importance of a good education and skills for getting them through life without being a financial burden on society. Maybe the board needs to be replaced with people who have a realistic view of our childrens chalenges.
  31. Therightchange
    Report Abuse
    Therightchange - July 27, 2010 4:23 am
    Just maybe putting Democrats incharge of OPI for so long and having a idealog like the Messinger and his rubber stamp board of trustees was not the best idea that could have been put into practice. No matter what the lame excuses that the present leader of OPI wants to force feed the liberal media and the people failure is failure and Montana can not afford to let so many of our youth fail.
  32. Purple
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    Purple - July 27, 2010 12:45 am
    The drop out rate reflects the quality of teachers and quality of the education system.

    The school board should concentrate all of it's efforts on turning that mess around before they take on sex education. Given their track record, we can expect the education system to mess up sex education as well since they are less qualified in sex education than they are about math, science, and reading.

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