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How Public Schools Work

Public School Challenges

Because public schools accept everyone in a given geographical area, they must contend with problems such as violence, high dropout rates, overcrowding, and even poor teacher retention. Here is a breakdown of just a few of the issues that plague public schools:


A 2002-03 study found that only about 70 percent of eligible high school seniors graduate from high school each year. This translates into about 1.2 million high school dropouts annually. Dropout rates are highest among minority students. The five states with the highest graduation rates are [source: NCHEMS Information Center]:

  1. New Jersey - 91.3 percent
  2. Utah - 85.1 percent
  3. North Dakota - 84.7 percent
  4. Iowa - 84.5 percent
  5. Nebraska - 83.8 percent

And the five states with the lowest graduation rates are [source: NCHEMS Information Center]:

  1. Nevada - 50.7 percent
  2. South Carolina - 52.1 percent
  3. Georgia - 54.1 percent
  4. Florida - 55 percent
  5. Mississippi - 60.3 percent

Most of the dropouts say they leave school because the work is too difficult, or too boring. Some states are considering raising the legal dropout age to attack the problem. Others are proposing to give dropouts the opportunity to complete their high school education at community colleges with their peers. Other strategies include increasing parental involvement and helping students feel more engaged and challenged while in high school.

School Violence

School violence is on the rise in this country. You can get an idea of what acts of violence are being perpetrated on school grounds by looking at the “Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2004-2005” report, Here are a few statistics from the 2004-05 school year published in that report:

  • 28 school-associated violent deaths occurred (21 homicides, 7 suicides)
  • 863,000 thefts were reported
  • 583,000 violent crimes were committed (including sexual assault and aggravated assault)
  • 25 percent of children in grades 9-12 were offered drugs on school property

Strategies for combating school violence include instituting safety policies and emergency procedures at each school, creating an environment in which students feel comfortable reporting incidents, and establishing and enforcing clear rules of student conduct.

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