Tag Archives: Hope Solo

High School Dropouts: A Crisis With Great Cost

OK. I’ll admit it. I’m mostly interested in the outcome of the USA women’s soccer team’s match with Costa Rica today. A win sends the injured and maybe-will-play-maybe-not Hope Solo and teammates to the London Olympics. A loss has them looking for Dancing With The Stars opportunities.

But since the match isn’t until later and I really have nothing else to do, I’ll opine this a.m. on what is a much more serious issue: the crisis involving high school dropouts in this country.

Prez O touched on that during his State of the Union address. That’s good. But words and rhetoric are not enough. Here’s why — as outlined in this NYT article, “The True Costs of High School Dropouts“:

ONLY 21 states require students to attend high school until they graduate or turn 18. The proposal President Obamaannounced on Tuesday night in his State of the Union address — to make such attendance compulsory in every state — is a step in the right direction, but it would not go far enough to reduce a dropout rate that imposes a heavy cost on the entire economy, not just on those who fail to obtain a diploma.

In 1970, the United States had the world’s highest rate of high school and college graduation. Today, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, we’ve slipped to No. 21 in high school completion and No. 15 in college completion, as other countries surpassed us in the quality of their primary and secondary education.


Only 7 of 10 ninth graders today will get high school diplomas. A decade after the No Child Left Behind law mandated efforts to reduce the racial gap, about 80 percent of white and Asian students graduate from high school, compared with only 55 percent of blacks and Hispanics.

Like President Obama, many reformers focus their dropout prevention efforts on high schoolers; replacing large high schools with smaller learning communities where poor students can get individualized instruction from dedicated teachers has been shown to be effective. Rigorous evidence gathered over decades suggests that some of the most promising approaches need to start even earlier: preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, who are fed and taught in small groups, followed up with home visits by teachers and with group meetings of parents; reducing class size in the early grades; and increasing teacher salaries from kindergarten through 12th grade.

These programs sound expensive — some Americans probably think that preventing 1.3 million students from dropping out of high school each year can’t be done — but in fact the costs of inaction are far greater.

High school completion is, of course, the most significant requirement for entering college. While our economic competitors are rapidly increasing graduation rates at both levels, we continue to fall behind. Educated workers are the basis of economic growth — they are especially critical as sources of innovation and productivity given the pace and nature of technological progress.

If we could reduce the current number of dropouts by just half, we would yield almost 700,000 new graduates a year, and it would more than pay for itself. Studies show that the typical high school graduate will obtain higher employment and earnings — an astonishing 50 percent to 100 percent increase in lifetime income — and will be less likely to draw on public money for health care and welfare and less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system. Further, because of the increased income, the typical graduate will contribute more in tax revenues over his lifetime than if he’d dropped out.

When the costs of investment to produce a new graduate are taken into account, there is a return of $1.45 to $3.55 for every dollar of investment, depending upon the educational intervention strategy. Under this estimate, each new graduate confers a net benefit to taxpayers of about $127,000 over the graduate’s lifetime. This is a benefit to the public of nearly $90 billion for each year of success in reducing the number of high school dropouts by 700,000 — or something close to $1 trillion after 11 years. That’s real money — and a reason both liberals and conservatives should rally behind dropout prevention as an element of economic recovery, leaving aside the ethical dimensions of educating our young people.

Some might argue that these estimates are too large, that the relationships among the time-tested interventions, high school graduation rates and adult outcomes have not been proved yet on a large scale. Those are important considerations, but the evidence cannot be denied: increased education does, indeed, improve skill levels and help individuals to lead healthier and more productive lives. And despite the high unemployment rate today, we have every reason to believe that many of these new graduates would find work — our history is filled with sustained periods of economic growth when increasing numbers of young people obtained more schooling and received large economic benefits as a result.

Of course, there are other strategies for improving educational attainment — researchers learn more every day about which are effective and which are not. But even with what we know, a failure to substantially reduce the numbers of high school dropouts is demonstrably penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Proven educational strategies to increase high school completion, like high-quality preschool, provide returns to the taxpayer that are as much as three and a half times their cost. Investing our public dollars wisely to reduce the number of high school dropouts must be a central part of any strategy to raise long-run economic growth, reduce inequality and return fiscal health to our federal, state and local governments.

Wow. Sounds like fixing the problem involving high school dropouts is something that matters, not just to the young people involved, but to their families and to our communities, businesses and nation’s long-term economic prosperity.

Wonder if Hope Solo could help with this — after getting the USA women’s soccer team to the Olympics?



Obama Jobs Bill: No We Can’t

OK. I’ll admit it. I’m having a difficult time getting excited about Dancing With the Stars this season. Let’s face it. Without Hope Solo it wouldn’t even be worth the effort or the electricity to turn on the TV.

So while I snoozed peacefully during the broadcast last night, I take it members of the Senate did the quickstep with Obama’s jobs bill (“Pass the Bill Now”) and sent it to the sidelines as a few Democrats joined all the Republicans and gave it a thumbs down. Now the Prez who a few weeks ago said he wouldn’t compromise on the plan — in effect, take the whole thing as a package or shove it where the sun don’t shine — is now willing to let the pols and lobbyists fight over it item by item.

Ah, and you wonder why thousands of young people and others are on the streets these days in New York City and elsewhere. Either nobody Inside the Beltway is listening — or they don’t care that millions are unemployed and millions more are just getting by in an economy that is now heading South faster than the Snow Birds from Ohio.

Wonder when “Yes We Can” became “No We Can’t?” I digress.

Here’s from the NYT, “Jobs Measure Is Turned Back in Key Senate Test“:

In a major setback for President Obama, the Senate on Tuesday blocked consideration of his $447 billion jobs bill, forcing the White House and Congressional Democrats to scramble to salvage parts of the plan, the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s push to revive a listless economy.

The legislation, announced with fanfare by the president at a joint session of Congress last month, fell short of the 60 needed to overcome procedural hurdles in the Senate.

The vote in favor of advancing the bill on Tuesday was 50 to 49. Two moderate Democrats facing difficult re-election campaigns, Senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Jon Tester of Montana, joined a solid phalanx of Republicans in opposition. In addition, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, switched from yes to no so that he could move to reconsider the vote in the future.

Given Mr. Obama’s repeated demands, as he traveled the nation in recent weeks, that Congress pass the bill intact, the Senate’s vote to block the measure represented a significant setback and came after leaders of his own party had adjusted the measure to include a surtax on incomes of more than $1 million to round up additional Democratic votes.

After the vote, the president criticized Republicans for balking at a measure that included initiatives they supported in the past.

“Tonight’s vote is by no means the end of this fight,” the president said in a statement. He added, “In the coming days, members of Congress will have to take a stand on whether they believe we should put teachers, construction workers, police officers and firefighters back on the job.”

OK. Let the 2012 election campaigns continue.

Clearly we need some hope that there are answers to the big problems facing this country.

But while the Congress and administration dither, I guess we’ll have to settle for Hope Solo.



Hope Solo, Groundhog Day and Back to Reality

Well, the USA had Hope — but not enough goals. Even though the USA came up short in its bid to win the World Cup, it was an exciting game that kept me and the Prez glued to the TV (admittedly in different cities) Sunday afternoon. And congrats to the team from Japan. They lifted the spirits of an entire country — and the bar for women’s soccer at any level.

So now it’s back to the reality of the debt fiasco Inside the Beltway. And it strikes me that we are watching a political version of the Bill Murray flick Groundhog Day. Here’s from Wikipedia:

Murray plays Phil Connors, an egocentric Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during a hated assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, finds himself repeating the same day over and over again. After indulging in hedonism and numerous suicide attempts, he begins to re-examine his life and priorities.

Hmm. Every day now we hear about solutions ranging from plans A to Z — but with very few specifics for measures that apparently with luck maybe will cut spending from anywhere from $1.5 to $4 trillion. Maybe the conservatives and liberals in Congress should select five from each side and let them fire penalty kicks at the Prez and Eric Cantor. Winner take all! Hey, no worse an idea than some that are being floated on the weekend talk shows where the DC chattering class meet every Sunday.

Here’s an interesting NYT article, “Across the Nation, Budget Talks Stir Pessimism“:

SAN FRANCISCO — On Friday morning, President Obama insisted that he completely understood how the American people — a phrase he mentioned more than two dozen times — felt about the slow pace of negotiations over the debt ceiling.

“For the general public — I’ve said this before, but I just want to reiterate — this is not some abstract issue,” the president said in a news conference at the White House, adding that he knew that the American people “expect more.”

“They expect,” he said, “that we actually try to solve this problem.”

But, as Yoda once said, there is a profound difference between try and do. And a quick, informal selection of voices from across the country over the weekend found both pessimism and cynicism about the state of negotiations in Washington, resignation about the partisan jousting and more confusion than conniption about what exactly will happen if the president and his Republican opponents cannot make a deal to raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2.

And neither side, they say, looks good.

“They’re all boneheads,” said Steve Ruzika, 55, an entrepreneur from Boca Raton, Fla., who added that while he is politically conservative, he is fed up with both ends of the political spectrum.

“This has been brewing for a long time,” Mr. Ruzika said. “They should have solved it before now.”

And you groaned when I suggested penalty kicks?

I Read the News Today, Oh, Boy

Some days it would be great to get up at 3 a.m., fire up the computer, and sit back with a pot of strong coffee while scanning what might be labeled as good news. But, alas, for this pajama-clad citizen journalist, the early a.m. is filled with stories that would make a sane person head back and crawl under the bed if not the covers: the continuing debt debacle Inside the Beltway, wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere, Carmaggeddon in Los Angeles, Mad Dog still sitting pretty in Libya, and so on. Next thing you know we’ll find out that a national news organization is tapping our phones.

Then there is the chilling story about Leiby Kletzky, the 8-year-old boy who was abducted and murdered when he got lost on his first solo trip walking home from a summer camp in Brooklyn. If you’re a parent, know someone who has children, or plan on having children, this is the nightmare that gets you up and keeps you up long before 3 a.m.

So, since we are sliding head first into another summer weekend, I figured I search for some good news. Here goes.

  • Mila Kunis. Marine Sgt. Scott Moore, stationed in Afghanistan, posted a video on YouTube inviting Mila to attend a Marine Corps Ball in North Carolina in November. And she said yes. Whoo-hoo. OK. She’s waffling a bit now, suggesting that film scheduling conflicts might prevent her from going. But it’s a feel-good story and here’s hoping she goes. And let’s see. Dear Pippa –oops, I digress.
  • Christian Lopez. Christian was in the right place at the right time, coming out of a Rugby scrum in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium holding the ball that Derek Jeter knocked out of the park for his 3,000th hit. Then Christian did something that struck at the heart of all the Wall Street Titans of Commerce: He gave the ball to Jeter without trying to profit from it — even though some opine that the ball would be worth $100,000 or so if the tried to sell it. Well the Yankees rewarded his good deed by giving him some free tickets and other stuff — but get this, he immediately was hit with a $14,000 tax bill. Note to the Prez and Mitch: This is why people in the real world are pissed off. I digress again. But good news. Several companies have stepped up and offered to pay the tax bill as well as give him $50,000 or so from various promotions. I’m convinced Tim Geithner would have kept the ball.
  • USA women’s soccer team. This is the best good news story of the summer. The USA women’s team plays Japan on Sunday for the World Cup. And as Sally Jenkins opined in WaPo after their semifinal win over France, “Bulletin to the spray-on tan crowd: Beat it. The big girls are here.” And for those of us here in the USA, unlike with the deficit, spending and budget talks, at least with the women’s soccer team we’ll always have Hope. Just sayin’.

Have an enjoyable weekend — with nothing but good news.

Hope Solo, Women’s Soccer and Winning the World Cup

OK. Since Mitch McConnell has entered the debt ceiling fray (note to all Americans: we’re sunk), I’m going to spend a good portion of my day fretting about other matters. And while both sides Inside the Beltway continue to kick the can on spending, jobs and so on, I’m going to keep my eyes on some real footballers: the U.S. women’s soccer team.

They play France today at noon in the semifinals of the World Cup. Japan takes the pitch against Sweden immediately following. And as best I can tell both matches will be on ESPN.

I enjoy watching soccer, and the USA victory over Brazil Sunday should kind of blow out of the water the claim that soccer doesn’t have enough action or excitement to suit American sports fans. C’mon. The USA tied the score with about two seconds left — and then won in a shootout. Compared to that, baseball’s All-Star Game was an exercise in watching paint dry.

And even if you prefer to watch snooker or women’s beach volleyball, how can you not cheer for the USA goalie, Hope Solo? Here’s from the NYT, “U.S. Goalkeeper Made Quite a Comeback of Her Own“:

They would joke about it later, but the moment grew too chaotic for Hope Solo. She had to get away. This time, she left on her own, not at the insistence of others.

The Women’s World Cup quarterfinals had reached penalty kicks Sunday after a stunning overtime comeback by the United States against Brazil. In a team huddle, forward Abby Wambach screamed at her teammates to relax.

“Look who’s talking,” midfielder Carli Lloyd said, according to Solo, and the other players laughed edgily. Who could calm down with someone yelling at them?

A few players started punching Solo, the goalkeeper. These were fists of encouragement, meant to rouse and motivate her. But Solo felt her emotions rising when she needed to feel calm. So she walked away, strolled to the other side of the field in Dresden and leaned on the advertising boards.

“We couldn’t find her,” Christie Rampone, the team captain, said.

Solo looked into the stands and found her mother, brother and sister. She spotted her aunt and uncle. She thought briefly about the 2007 World Cup, about how she wanted to enjoy this moment because that other moment had been so unpleasant.

Her father had died shortly before that World Cup. He had been Solo’s biggest supporter and a bigger enigma, a man who lived in a tent, homeless, who kept changing his name and died before everything could be explained.

When the 2007 World Cup started, Solo was still grieving. Then she was benched by Coach Greg Ryan for a semifinal match against Brazil. The United States lost, 4-0, with Briana Scurry in goal. Afterward, Solo said that she could have saved the shots that ended up in the net. Her words scattered beyond their aim.

Solo’s teammates took her remarks as a criticism of Scurry, not just Ryan. She was banished from the third-place game and the team flight home from China, ostracized by the women who had played with her and been her friends.

So on Sunday, as she awaited the penalty-kick shootout, Solo took in the crowd. She let the noise wash over her. The United States had been a player down for the final 25 minutes of regulation and all 30 minutes of overtime but kept its resolve and tied the score. And now Solo felt a kind of release. If others were tense, she was relaxed.

“I just wanted to enjoy this moment because in 2007, I wasn’t able to do that,” she said. “I was at peace, clear-headed, right where I needed to be.”

When Daiane, the third Brazilian shooter, set up for her penalty kick, Solo made her wait. She moved unhurriedly in the goal mouth, stalling, trying to spot something that would betray Daiane’s intent. Finally, she did. The way Daiane ran toward the ball, the arc of her approach, was the giveaway. She was behind the ball and her hips opened, and the ball could go in only one direction. Solo dived to her right and punched the ball away, and the Americans soon advanced to the semifinals to face France here Wednesday.

I know that many who read these posts are at work, busily monitoring Facebook and Twitter and pulling recipes from the Food Network. But if you have the opportunity to watch some or all of the matches, go for it. Your boss won’t notice. Trust me on that.

And yeah, I know. While the women are world-class athletes no matter how you slice it, the critique is that this still doesn’t quite add up to the men’s game. Well, my perspective is that there is a difference. The USA women, unlike the men, have a history of finishing matches that really mean something at least one goal ahead.

Just sayin’.