Russell W. Rumberger


On his book Dropping Out: Why Students Drop Out of High School and What Can Be Done About It

Cover Interview of December 01, 2011

A close-up

The first chapter of the book is only 19 pages—but it provides a useful introduction the topic and complete overview of the book.

The chapter first documents the magnitude of the problem.

According to Education Week, the nation’s leading education periodical, an estimated 1.3 million students from the high school class of 2010 failed to graduate, which represents 30 percent of the 4.3 million students enrolled in the ninth grade in 2006.  The dropout problem also varies widely among populations of students and schools.  Only 56 percent of Hispanics and 54 percent of Blacks from that class graduated in 2007, compared to 81 percent of Asians and 77 percent of Whites.  And Education Week estimates the high school graduation rate for the class of 2007 among the nation’s 50 largest school districts ranged from 40 percent in Clark County, Nevada to 83 percent in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Further, research by Nobel economist James Heckman show that the high school graduation rate is lower than the federal government reports; is lower today than 40 years ago; and disparities in graduation rates among racial and ethnic minorities have not improved over the last 35 years.


The chapter then goes on to document how reducing the number of dropouts has become a national policy concern both inside and outside of the government.  Over the last six years, it has received attention from Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and President Obama.

The chapter then discusses, briefly, discusses the three remaining facets of the problem:  the individual and social consequences, the causes, and the solutions.