Arizona has nation's worst dropout rate
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 26, 2005
Karina Bland

Once again, Arizona's high school dropout rate is the worst in the nation, though this time we share last place with Louisiana.

For the fourth year in a row, Arizona ranked last among the states for its percentage of teens, ages 16 to 19, who have dropped out of school. The findings, based on 2003 census data, are in the annual Kids Count report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore.

Arizona's dropout rate is 12 percent, compared to 8 percent nationally. New Jersey, North Dakota and Wisconsin, at 4 percent, shared the top showing.

The good news is Arizona's rate has improved.In 1998, 17 percent of teens didn't graduate, double the national average at the time.

"We've gotten better," says Carol Kamin, director of Children's Action Alliance, a nonprofit group, "but we haven't shown the same kind of improvements as other states."

But Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne contends that Arizona's dropout rate is closer to 6 percent: "I think that organization has their numbers wrong."

Experts consider the Kids Count ranking a good measure, Kamin said, because it uses census data, not self-reported figures from the nation's education departments: "It's comparing apples to apples."

Regardless of who's numbers are more accurate, too many kids are dropping out. Typically, high school dropouts earn $5,000 a year less, are 60 percent more likely to be unemployed and 80 percent of those in Arizona prisons are dropouts.