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Report: Nevada dropout rate grows to worst in the country

Updated Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010 | 3:18 p.m.

Nevada has lost ground when it comes to high school dropout rates and ranks last in the nation, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report by the America's Promise Alliance said the number of high schools in Nevada deemed "dropout factories" rose from eight in 2002 to 34 in 2008, with the increase representing nearly 54,000 students. During that time, the state's graduation rate fell from 72 percent to 51 percent.

The term dropout factory refers to schools where fewer than 60 percent of students who started as freshman remain enrolled four years later.

Nationally, the number of dropout-factory schools fell by 13 percent.

The report cited Nevada's rapid growth during those years, as well as a soaring percentage in the number of English language learners, a "stressed and undiversified economic system," and a strong labor market for unskilled workers for the decline.

Since then, Nevada's economy has tanked and people are leaving the state to find jobs elsewhere. But the state's narrow economic base and record joblessness, bankruptcies and foreclosures weigh heavily on recovery.

Education was a key issue in Nevada's gubernatorial race, and Republican Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval has he wants to reform the state's education system and tie it to efforts to diversity the state's economy.

America's Promise Alliance is an education advocacy organization started by former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife. The alliance joined with Johns Hopkins University education researcher Robert Balfanz and John Bridgeland, co-author of the report, to produce the study, a follow up to Balfanz's 2007 report that coined the term "dropout factories."

The study calculates graduation rates by a federally approved formula based on the percentage of students who graduate high school four years after they enter.

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