SECONDARY EDUCATION

High school dropout gender gap highest in R.I., Conn.

BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/MICHAEL OKONIEWSKI
RHODE ISLAND has one of the largest gender gaps among high school drop outs in the country, with male students dropping out nearly two-to-one compared to female students.
Posted 1/22/13

WASHINGTON - Rhode Island has one of largest gender gaps among high school dropouts in the country, according to a U.S. Department of Education study.

The study, released on Tuesday, says that the male student dropout rate in Rhode Island was 5.5 percent in the 2009-2010 school year. For females, it was 3.8 percent. Six out of every ten dropouts in the state were male. During the 2009-2010 school year, more than 2,100 Rhode Island students quit high school.

A year later, neither the gap nor the dropout rate had improved. In the 2010-2011 school year, there were 2,338 dropouts with an identical gender disparity – males outnumbered females two to one. More than half of the dropouts occurred before students reached grade 11, according to data tables available on the R.I. Department of Education website.

The male dropout rate was higher in every state, and while national averages were 3.8 percent male and 2.9 percent female, the disparities were not uniform from state to state. Idaho gender gaps were the lowest at 0.2 percent, while the greatest gaps -- 1.7 -- were found in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

The national high school dropout rate was roughly 7 percent in 2010, a decrease from the 8 percent reported in 2009.

Deborah A. Gist, the state’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education, would not make a formal statement regarding the study, but pointed to a state initiative called “Transforming Education in Rhode Island” that focuses on bolstering programs that support student achievement.

“When implemented well, these programs can have dramatic effects on the lives of our students, as we have seen at Central Falls High School, where in 2011 the four-year graduation rate improved from 54 percent to 71 percent,” said Gist in an email to Providence Business News. As part of the plan, the department has also set a four-year graduation rate goal of 85 percent by 2015.

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