High School Dropout Rates in Midwest Displayed in New Geographic Data Map Series That Offers Insight for Policymakers

Chicago, Ill. – The Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest at Learning Point Associates has launched the Midwest Education Atlas, an online repository of geographic data displays that map out the most recent data on high school dropout rates and give educators a new view toward prevention.

Through geographic information system (GIS) technology, users of this online tool will see how data on high school dropout rates are linked to particular locations within a state without having to create a mental picture from words and numbers. Using publicly available data sources, the REL Midwest team created a set of maps that display data on high school dropout rates across several district-level variables, such as poverty level, minority enrollment, and mothers’ education level. The site also provides links to related topical resources.

These dropout rate maps grew out of REL Midwest’s support of statewide and citywide summits on high school dropout prevention and have helped frame conversations on dropout prevention in communities across the Midwest. “Like all states, Midwest region states are focused on improving graduation rates and reducing the number of students who drop out of school each year,” said REL Midwest Director Matt Dawson, Ph.D. “State initiatives like Every Child a Graduate in Wisconsin and the Superintendent’s Dropout Challenge in Michigan underscore the importance of this issue across the region.”

In her work with the dropout prevention summits, REL Midwest Senior Policy Associate Sara Wraight, J.D., saw how people were able to connect with data presented in map form. “The maps generate conversation,” she said. “People seem more readily drawn to information when they can see places they know.”

Maps for Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin display the most recent data on high school dropout rates from publicly available data sources. The sources include the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Common Core of Data, and state education agency websites. Data for Iowa are not displayed on the Midwest Education Atlas due to insufficient publicly available data. Each map contains a link to an interactive, downloadable PDF that allows users to hide or show various layers of information and zoom in or out on specific regions in the state. Materials illustrate geographic patterns and do not provide or imply causal links or relationships in the data. REL Midwest plans additional topics for release on a quarterly basis. Among the topics in review are state student achievement data, school funding and finance, and urban/rural distinctions.

REL Midwest at Learning Point Associates is one of 10 regional educational laboratories funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. REL Midwest serves the educational needs of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. A nonpartisan resource, REL Midwest provides expert advice to help educators and policymakers apply scientifically valid research to their decision making. Learning Point Associates is an affiliate of the American Institutes for Research (AIR).

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