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Junior Villarreal, once an earnest high school freshman with a passion for history and baseball, missed hundreds of classes at two Fresno campuses. Last March, he was fatally stabbed a few blocks from Sunnyside High.
What is the true dropout rate in Fresno? Teachers, administrators and community activists generally place the overall dropout rate in Fresno Unified at between 30% and 40%. They say the figure is considerably higher for Hispanic, black and Hmong male students. But the school district has listed the overall dropout rate in the 15% to 20% range.
Many of the young Hispanics who gathered at a pizza parlor to remember Junior Villareal had either dropped out of high school or were on the verge. Among the mourners was his younger brother, Anthony, a seventh-grader so lost and defiant that he, too, was on the brink of dropping out.
State education officials say Fresno Unified is not doing enough to track habitual truants and give them the help they need. The Fresno County Office of Education, they say, has let the school district off the hook by not demanding the annual truancy reports state law requires.
We have long complained about the lack of commitment by public school administrators and school trustees to reducing the embarrassingly high dropout rate. High school dropout factories not only have been allowed to flourish, but the education lobby has manipulated dropout figures to make it appear that the problem isnt serious. Now we have a case study of a school system that has become a haven for habitual truants.
Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson announced Tuesday that he is creating a high-level task force to find ways to keep students in school until they graduate.
The global economy is fast changing and technology driven. Public education in America, meanwhile, is tradition bound and limping along like a 2000 Ford Excursion with a bad transmission.
Javier Guzman sees dropping out of school as the symptom of a disease -- a deadly strain of poverty, crime and unemployment. And he wants to help find the cure. He's no doctor, but almost two decades of public health experience have shaped the approach Guzman, director of the Chicano Youth Center, is taking to help tackle Fresno Unified School District's dropout crisis.
Reformers who want to split Fresno Unified School District might be wise to look for a box stashed at the Fresno County Office of Education.
The Fresno Unified School District has an opportunity for a new beginning in its efforts to improve the dropout problem that plagues our community. On Wednesday, board members asked Hanson to explore creation of a dropout intervention commission. We think this is an excellent idea, although the makeup of the commission needs to be carefully thought out.