HS Dropout Rates Reversed
Recently, the U.S Department of Education held a program in
its series, “Education News Parents Can Use,” entitled, “Dropout
Prevention and Recovery: Catching Students Before It's Too
Late,” which discussed the issues surrounding high school
students' decisions to dropout and programs that are being
implemented to rectify the situation.
Research has shown that a person lacking a high school diploma
will earn less than half of what a college graduate earns and
only two-thirds of what a high school graduate makes because
the individual lacks the necessary skills to compete in a highly
competitive market. Hispanic, Native American, and African
American students along with disabled students and those living
in low income households are found to be at the greatest risk
of dropping out of high school.
“Students without strong parental support often say
this [school] is not meaningful, this is not getting me anywhere,
I'm better off just leaving,” says Susan Sclafani, Assistant
Secretary of Education for Vocational & Adult Education
The No Child Left Behind Act holds schools to very high standards
for test scores, and for high schools, the graduation rate
is a key piece of accountability,” says Christopher Swanson,
a research associate at the Urban Institute. The graduation
rate has been redefined as “on-time completion of high
school with a regular, standard state's diploma.” Schools
can no longer try to “game the system” by pushing
out academically weak students to raise test scores. “Knowledge
is power when it comes to the dropout rate,” says Swanson. “We
need to keep better track of students, know what type of support
they need to keep them in school or bring them back, and we
need to worry about how to identify those at-risk students,
Although the dropout situation seems bleak, there are programs
that have been successful at preventing dropouts and re-introducing
them into the educational system. One such effort is the Gateway
to College program which offers high school dropouts ages 16-20
an opportunity to complete high school and earn college credit.
Students learn in a cohort and master basics like reading,
writing, and math, while working on skills needed for college.
The goal of the program is to move students from a history
of failure to hope to success. In fact, the program has been
so successful that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have
invested in replicating the Gateway model on other college
campuses throughout the nation. To be effective, such programs
require strong relationships between colleges and local school
The National Football Foundation's “Play it Smart Educational
Program,” is another effort to keep students in school.
The program targets kids from tough inner city environments,
and provides support where it is lacking. It is designed to
take “a student athlete's passion for sport and transform
it into a force for greater good in their lives.” The
graduation rate is 98 percent for the whole program and the
average GPAs of students are higher than the school's average.
Changing a school's curriculum to better suit the changing
needs of society is another way to combat the dropout situation.
One of the poorest communities in Ohio, Pine Valley Local School
district drastically altered its curriculum in response to
being placed on the state's “academic watch” due
to poor academic performance. After changing the curriculum,
raising standards, and providing students with additional support,
college attendance and academic performance rose.
Therefore, from these programs, it seems evident that understanding
the challenges that at- risk students face, and providing them
with the materials and support they need, is crucial to their
academic and personal success.#