Mississippi’s Drop-out Factories

This page previously linked to data provided by the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE). The Alliance uses what it calls a “Promoting Power” indicator as a means of identifying the “lowest-performing high schools” in each state. These high schools are more popularly known as “dropout factories.” According to AEE, a dropout factory is defined as follows:

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have identified almost 2,000 high schools (about 13 percent of American high schools) where the typical freshman class shrinks by 40 percent or more by the time the students reach their senior year. These “dropout factories” serve large numbers of minority and low-income students, and have fewer resources and less-qualified teachers than schools in more affluent neighborhoods with larger numbers of white students. In fact, 38 percent of African American students and 33 percent of Latino students attend dropout factories.

We have received many questions about the AEE/Johns Hopkins Promoting Power indicator. To clarify:

  • The Promoting Power indicator was developed because historically there has not been a uniform measure of school graduation rates. The indictor is “an estimate of graduation rates, and one that can be affected by other factors.”
  • Promoting Power is not the equivalent of a 4-year graduation rate.
  • Promoting Power is not the equivalent of a dropout rate.

The Promoting Power indicator is just one means of reflecting graduation rates. Like all of these measures, it has its limitations. Of importance here is that the data used by the indicator “is calculated using school enrollment numbers that are self-reported to the Common Core of Data (CCD), housed at the National Center for Education Statistics, Institute for Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.”

We have subsequently discovered that, owing to coding errors in the data, two schools (in the Lauderdale School District) were labeled with incorrect Promoting Power/graduation rates. We apologize for any confusion our posting of this data has created.

Using MDE’s own data, Mississippi has 30 high schools with a graduation rate of 60 percent or less. (Sixty percent is the cut off score used by AEE to identify a “dropout factory.”) By comparison, AEE reports 34 dropout factories, two of which from the Lauderdale School District are mislabeled, thus making 32.