Madera Unified School District Superintendent Ed Gonzalez may have shocked some of his audience last week when he gave a short talk about eight groups of students in the district who are most likely to drop out of school.
He was speaking at a reception given by the Madera Chapter of the Association of Mexican American Educators and Latinas Unidas in his honor and that of his wife, Barbara.
Most of his audience probably knew some if not all the statistics he related. But the shock may have come in having the problem laid squarely on the table in front of those at least partially responsible for getting to work and solving it: The district’s educational establishment.
Most at risk, he said are students in foster care, followed by students who are homeless. He said many students in Madera fall into those categories. They are in our city but largely unseen by most. Children whose families have broken up, and children who may live on the streets or in cars.
The next group is made up of the children of migrant workers who are merely in the city a short time.
The next group is English-language learners — they make up an astonishing 50 percent of the dropouts. What’s going on there? Something must be wrong with the system for it to have such a high rate of failure.
Next are special-education students.
They are followed, astonishingly, by the entire 7th and 8th grade classes, Gonzalez said. He said many students in these grades seek help that they don’t always get.
Then, the superintendent cited African-American students, who make up a disproportionate percentage of those who are suspended or expelled from school.
Finally, he said, the entire male student population is at risk, because from that group come 80 percent of all dropouts.
Gonzalez deserves credit for not being shy in laying the problem out. Now, the next step is for him, for the administrators, for the teachers, for the parents and, yes, for the students to take the steps needed to create schools that have fewer such problems and more opportunities for the district’s youth and their families.