Writing a Problem Statement

Cuba has a 96% literacy rate.  Despite what others may think of the country itself, this is a marvel, and there’s a reason.  In Cuba, there are localized health centers, nearly at the end of each neighborhood.  They take care of everything though:  health, monitoring the comings and goings of neighbors, and making sure the children get to school on time, and are appropriately unformed.  Perhaps this is why the literacy rate is so high.  It does take a village, you know. That and the fact that you can further your education as high as you want, without paying a penny, right up to a Medical Doctor if you fancy.

It costs money to drop out of school.  Not to the dropout, per se, but there is an opportunity lost.  Each dropout makes $10K less, on average, than his or her graduated peers and $36K less annually than a college graduate.  This results in less money the government gets through sales tax, property tax and income tax.  The ‘drop-ins’ are paying for the dropouts.  Half of the Americans on welfare are high school dropouts.  If all of the dropouts from 2011 had graduated, the nation would have had $154B more dollars over their lifetime.  It’s not just about the money though. 

The livelihood and quality of life decreases if you dropout.  Over 80% of the incarcerated populations are high school dropouts, even higher if they are black.  It’s part of the rites of passage to go to high school, prom, grad night, etc. (www.theedadvocate.org).  Some never get a change to experience these things, and search for them in illicit activities.  Those who drop out of high school are 2.5 times more likely to die prematurely.  Teachers are saving lives.  We are the first teachers and basically first responders.

As a developed nation, we should strive for 95% graduation rate and see to it that we are doing all we can to promote education and literacy for the benefit of our people as a whole.  This may mean free college education.  It may mean spending where it matters the most, maybe as early as pre-school.  It may mean making difficult choices.

While there are known risk factors, being super poor, not doing well in school in the first place, being a foster kid or just a little brush with the law, not all students in these cases drop out.  Yes, they are more likely to, on the average, but many do not.  The national dropout rate was 7.4%, in 2010.  In 2016, 84.6% of high school students graduated within four years. Students that drop out increase the government’s expenditures on resources such as social services and subsidies for food, cash, housing. This and other incidentals cost the nation $1.8 billion per year. (NY Post, 2013)  Although there are many reasons cited for students dropping out, the research does show that we’ve learned a few things.  While the graduation rate is 88% for the nation, some states are graduating far less and continuing to let these dropout factories remain open.  Attendance matters.  Having a qualified and quality teacher matters.  Counselors matter.  (Miller, 2006)  We’ve also learned what does not matter.

Regardless of economic status, race or gender, 9th grade students are more likely to drop out if they fail English or Mathematics.  Children that attend pre-school are more likely to finish high school.  Simply being in a smaller school setting can increase the graduation rate.   On average, the research indicates that an effective size for an elementary school is in the range of 300-400 students and that 400-800 students is appropriate for a secondary school (Fowler, 1996). The researchers also found that reducing by 100 the number of students in the freshman class of a school with a high concentration of low performers produced a 2.7 percent increase in its graduation rate.  (Garland, 2010)   We now need to act on what we have learned.  

All the research is telling us why they dropped out.  What factors caused it, push or pull or both.  Why don’t we just ask them? Ask the students that leave what it would take to keep them in school, and then create that environment.  Let’s do more with less.  In response to the problem, our study proposes to investigate several options for creating an optimal learning environment, which will keep students in school.  We will also consider less expensive ways to alleviate some or all of the problems identified, such as a skilled labor force and open access to school buildings. 

FULL DISCLOSURE: I received a C on this assignment, on my 2nd try. The actual comments were that ‘Problem Statements need to be written in ‘dry’ form, and every sentence has to be a fact or a summary of facts’. Needless to say, that is/was very difficult for me to do, so I kept my C and kept it moving.

References (these are not in APA format, because, hello! I don’t know how to do that on this blog!!! But… I know how to link things :-)

National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983; U.S. Department of Education, 20062008). 

Doll, J., Eslami Z., & Walters, L (2013).  Understanding Why Students Drop Out of High School, According to Their Own Reports: Are They Pushed or Pulled, or Do They Fall Out? A Comparative Analysis of Seven Nationally Representative Studies. SAGE Open:  October-December 2013: 1 –15

Fowler, W. J., Jr. "School Size and Student Outcomes." Advances in Educational Productivity 5 (1995): 3-26.

Garland, S. (2010).  The Dropout Problem.  The Hechinger Report:  Covering Innovation & Inequality in Education.

Jerry Johnson, EdD, Marty Strange, & Karen Madden (2010).  The Rural Dropout Problem:  An Invisible Achievement Gap.  The Rural School and Community Trust:  May 2010

Lynch, Matthew (2016)  6 Reasons Why You Should Care about High School Dropout Rates. (2016, December 11).  The Edvocate.  Retrieved from https://www.theedadvocate.org/6-reasons-why-you-should-care-about-high-school-dropout-rates/

Miller, Cheryl.  (2006)  Dropped Out or Pushed Out: A Case Study on Why Students Drop Out

High School Dropouts Cost $1.8 billion every year. (2013, February 25). The New York Post  Retrieved from http://www.nypost.com

I’m a visual learner, so this helped me A LOT on what to include in my paper :-)

I’m a visual learner, so this helped me A LOT on what to include in my paper :-)