Dropout Factories

Can we sustain the public's attention for long enough to rehabilitate our country's worst schools?

Can we sustain the public’s attention for long enough to rehabilitate our country’s worst schools?

The country’s most crippled public high schools, dubbed “dropout factories” because less than 60 percent of their students see graduation day, are having their moment in the spotlight. The Obama administration has committed to putting nearly $1 billion toward turning around 2,000 such schools.

Despite the grim state of the public school system, there is reform on the horizon. Earlier this fall, Waiting for Superman, a new documentary by Davis Guggenheim (who directed An Inconvenient Truth), had its wide release. The film paints a devastating picture of America’s public school system and calls for widespread change. Around the same time, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on Oprah that he was pledging $100 million dollars to help remake Newark’s failed public school system. Lastly, School Pride, a new show on NBC, will apply the successful reality makeover model to failing public schools—in essence, hoping to keep the momentum generated from Waiting for Superman continuing well into the new year.

Whether in the film or outside of it, what the public has gravitated towards are beacons of hope—proof that schools can be made right again. Locke High School in the Watts area of Los Angeles is one of those, having become something of a turnaround poster child. Once infamous for violence and dropouts, and called a dumping ground for bad teachers, the school was taken over in 2008 by Green Dot, a charter management organization, and it’s hasn’t looked back since.

When asked what exactly has changed at Locke since, Marco Petruzzi, chief executive of Green Dot Public Schools says: “Everything, not a single thing is the same.” He goes on to cite some of the most critical achievements: The school has been broken down into smaller campuses that give students more personal attention, and the new staff's overriding ethos is that these kids can go to college.

“We’ve also created a safe place where students can leave their tough attitudes behind, and I’m hearing that the community is really starting to get behind it.” The latest reports show that the school’s test scores are up and the dropout rates down.

But detractors point to the high cost, which has been estimated at $15 million over four years. Under rules set by Congress, districts can only apply for $6 million for each failing school to be used over a three-year period. The Locke turnaround has relied considerably on private funding, and many, including Senator Al Franken, have called into question whether it’s an model that can be easily replicated by other failing schools.

However, Petruzzi says the numbers are being misunderstood: “The average California public student only gets $7,800 a year in government funding. But the national average is actually around $10,800 and in New York it’s closer to $18,000—when you spread that $15 million over four years and our total number of students, we’re only raising the annual student cost to $12,050.” According the Petruzzi, California is one of the least-funded states with one of the highest costs of living. “This is actually one of the cheapest turnarounds in the nation. So, yes, it’s absolutely doable.”

Justin Cohen, a turnaround strategist from the non-profit MassInsight, also thinks it’s a replicable model if states target the funds correctly. “The price tag at Locke may be high, but there’s now real federal money on the table to get the work done,” Cohen says, adding that “folks should instead be scrutinizing the way states use these grants.”

School Pride may show communities some ways to take matters into their own hands. “Our projects are funded by in-kind donations of local labor, raw materials and technology. Both local and national companies gave money to help fund the projects. And local volunteers executed the makeovers—this can be done anywhere,” says Jacob Soboroff, one of show’s hosts.

Some wonder whether awareness will ultimately translate into increased public engagement. While Petruzzi says Green Dot hasn’t seen any million-dollar checks rolling just yet, Newark certainly has. But smaller donations would be just as welcome: “What we’d love most actually, is to see LA’s middle class get behind this and realize that it’s the whole city’s issue.”

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

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Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.


Four black women, Engineers Christine Darden and Mary Jackson, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan, worked as "human computers" at NASA during the Space Race, making space travel possible through their complex calculations. Jackson, Johnson, and Vaughn all played a vital role in helping John Glenn become the first American to orbit the Earth.

They worked behind the scenes, but now they're getting the credit they deserve as their accomplishments are brought to the forefront. Their amazing stories were detailed in the book "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race" by Margot Lee Shetterly, which was later turned into a movie. (Darden was not featured in the movie, but was in the book). Johnson has a building at NASA named after her, and a street in front of NASA's Washington D.C. headquarters was renamed "Hidden Figures Way."

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Courtesy of John S. Hutton, MD

A report from Common Sense Media found the average child between the ages of 0 and 8 has 2 hours and 19 minutes of screen time a day, and 35% of their screen time is on a mobile device. A new study conducted by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital published in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics, found exactly what all that screen time is doing to your kid, or more specifically, your kid's developing brain. It turns out, more screen time contributes to slower brain development.

First, researchers gave the kids a test to determine how much and what kind of screen time they were getting. Were they watching fighting or educational content? Were they using it alone or with parents? Then, researchers examined the brains of children aged 3 to 5 year olds by using MRI scans. Forty seven brain-healthy children who hadn't started kindergarten yet were used for the study.

They found that kids who had more than one hour of screen time a day without parental supervision had lower levels of development in their brain's white matter, which is important when it comes to developing cognitive skills, language, and literacy.

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