What's Right About Public Schools

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US Public School Dropout Rates Are Decreasing

An increasing number of high school students are completing their education and enrolling in postsecondary institutions. Between 1990 and 2010, high school dropout rates among all racial and ethnic groups fell steadily from twelve percent to 7.4 percent. Among Hispanic students, the rate dropped significantly, from thirty-two percent in 1990 to fifteen percent in 2010. (1)

Black and Hispanic students have narrowed their respective high school completion gaps with White students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “between 1980 and 2011, the gap between Blacks and Whites decreased from 12 to 6 percentage points, and the gap between Hispanics and Whites decreased from 31 to 23 percentage points.”

In addition to helping more students to complete their high school education, educators, school leaders and parents have encouraged students to pursue secondary education. Between 2000 and 2010, the percentage of 18 to 24 year olds enrolled in college rose from thirty-five to forty-one percent.

Fast Facts. Educational Attainment, Dropout Rates and Postsecondary Enrollment. (2011). National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved July 29, 2013, from http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/index.asp

US Public Schools Have Out-Produced All Other Nations in Nobel Prizes for Physics and Chemistry

Concerns about the ability of US public education to create "innovators" is nothing new. We blamed public schools for our failure to beat Sputnik into space, and the blame re-emerged in 1983 when Japan's economy started outperforming our own.

Unfortunately, the high-profile complaints obscure the fact that US schools have quietly and steadily been producing innovators who have been responsible for the world's greatest scientific breakthroughs. Since 2003, 31 Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry have been awarded worldwide. Of those 31, 21 winners were educated in US public schools.

The nation with the next highest number of Nobels in Physics and Chemistry is Japan. With 6.

NameYearHigh SchoolState
David J. Wineland 2012 Encina HS CA
Brian P. Schmidt 2011 (split among 3 people) Bartlett-Begich HS AK
Adam Riess 2011 (split among 3 people) Watchung Hills Regional HS NJ
John C. Mather 2008 Newton HS NJ
George Smoot 2008 Upper Arlington HS OH
Roy J. Glauber 2005 Bronx HS of Science NY
John L. Hall 2005 Denver Public Schools CO
H. David Politzer 2004 Bronx HS of Science NY
Frank Wilczek 2004 Martin Van Buren HS NY
Raymond Davis* 2002 Washington HS DC

*Didn’t graduate from HS

NameYearHigh SchoolState
Robert J. Lefkowitz 2012 Bronx HS of Science NY
Brian K. Kobilka 2012 Little Falls HS MN
Thomas A. Steitz 2009 Wauwatosa East HS WI
Roger Y. Tsien 2008 Livingston HS NJ
Martin Chalfie 2008 Niles East HS (Skokie) IL
Roger D. Kornberg 2006 James Madison HS NY
Richard R. Schrock 2005 Mission Bay HS CA
Robert H. Grubbs 2005 Paducah Tilghman HS KY
Irwin Rose 2004 Spokane HS WA
Roderick MacKinnon 2003 Burlington HS MA
Peter Agre 2003 Theodore Roosevelt HS MN