Dropout Prevention and Recovery
The national high school dropout rate has received significant attention during the past few years. A report from the Alliance for Excellent Education reports that over a million students who enter ninth grade each fall fail to graduate with their peers four years later, and that approximately seven thousand students drop out every school day. The EPE Research Center reports that, nationally, approximately seventy percent of students graduate from high school on time, with a regular diploma, but that little more than half of African-American and Hispanic students earn diplomas with their peers.
The social and economic costs of high school dropouts are staggering. Not only do dropouts earn significantly less (over the course of a lifetime, a high school dropout earns, on average, about $260,000 less than a high school graduate), but they also contribute to billions of dollars of expenditures in uninsured health care costs and crime-related costs. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, dropouts from the Class of 2009 will cost the nation over $330 billion in lost wages, taxes, and productivity over their lifetimes.
Research shows that successful schools embed "rigor, relevance and relationships" into their framework. Coined by the Gates Foundation, this refers to "…rigorous academic coursework, meaningful relationships with instructors who can help students meet high standards, and relevant learning opportunities through internships and community partnerships." Recent attempts to improve dropout rates at the state legislative level have included policies that increase the rigor and relevance of curriculum and improve in-school relationships to make high school more challenging and meaningful for a greater number of students.
Strategies focusing on Rigor. Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas have increased math and science course requirements for high school graduation, phasing in requirement that all students to complete the biology, chemistry and physics sequence. Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas are phasing in requirement that all students complete the Algebra I, II, geometry sequence.
Strategies focusing on Relevance. Arkansas's SES HB 1154 (2003) expands Advanced Placement programs, requiring each school district in Arkansas to provide at least one AP course in each of four course areas. Florida's HB 7087 (2006) requires that each ninth grade student choose from one of 400 majors and take four of their eight elective classes in this college-style major.
Strategies focusing on Relationships. North Carolina's SB 571 (2006) requires the Board of Education to report on counselors and high school retention, and to include dropout prevention in the duties of counselors. Georgia's HB 1027 (2006) appropriates funds for a Graduation Coach in each of Georgia’s 385 public high schools. Each public high school can hire a Graduation Coach whose primary responsibility is to identify at-risk students and help keep them on track academically before they consider dropping out. Texas's HB 2237 (2007) makes money available for student clubs and their sponsors; and promotes collaboration of business, non-profits and religious organizations in a school’s dropout prevention programs.
Comprehensive State Legislation Addressing Dropout Prevention
Indiana's HB 1794 (2005) and HB 1347 (2006) resulted from a series of town meetings throughout the state with the business community, educators, parents and higher education leaders. Highlights of the two pieces of legislation include:
- Consequences for High School Dropouts. Clarifies that the dropout age in Indiana is 18 years of age; between the ages of 16 and 18, students must have the approval of parents and principal to withdraw from school. Students may only receive permission to drop out of high school for financial or health reasons or with permission of a judge.
- School Flex Program. Creates an alternate program for students in grades 11 and 12 that serves to engage students in relevant learning by allowing them to enroll in either a college or technical career education program or enroll in employment. It requires that the student attend school for at least three hours per day; pursue a timely graduation; not be suspended or expelled; pursue course and credit requirements for a general diploma; and maintain a 95% attendance rate. The school still counts the student as a full day student.
- Annual reporting of school progress in reducing dropouts. Provides that on the annual school report card, high schools must report numbers of total suspensions; students permitted to dropout by the school; work permits revoked; driver’s permits revoked; students in the School Flex program; and freshman not earning enough credits to become sophomores.
- Annual review of the student career plan. Requires students identified as at risk of dropping out to complete student career plans. If a student is not progressing, schools must counsel the student about credit recovery options and services available so that that the student may graduate on time.
- Fast Track Program. Authorizes community colleges and public colleges and universities to offer a high school completion program for students 19 or older or students with the high school’s permission. A participating student must also be enrolled a certificate or associate’s degree program. Credits from high school transfer to college Fast Track program.
- Double Up Program. Creates a dual credit program that may be offered by community colleges and public colleges and universities in which students can earn an associate's degree. A high school must offer a minimum of two dual credit and two Advanced Placement courses so that a student may meet the requirements for Core 40 with Academic Honors diploma. Free and reduced lunch students receive a tuition waiver from the university.
Texas's HB 2237 (2007), known as The High School Completion and Success Initiative, dedicates $120 million to dropout prevention. Provisions of the legislation include:
- Best Practice Studies and Strategic Planning. Allocates $1.5 million for research on best practices for drop out prevention, and assigns the Commission of Education to recommend legislation supporting those best practices.
- Graduation Requirements. Requires that each student have a personal graduation plan. Includes provisions to align state standards with Higher Education admissions requirements.
- Grants for Schools and Districts. Due to the fact that extracurricular programs often indicate lower drop out rates, grants for are set aside to support student clubs. The bill authorizes $5 million to be granted to clubs with no more than $5000 per year for an individual club. Requires that 60% of the students in the club qualify as being “at-risk” for dropping out. Districts may receive grants in collaboration with local organizations to work on dropout prevention. Applying districts must collaborate with local businesses, other local governments or law enforcement agencies, nonprofit organizations, faith-based organizations, or institutions of higher education to deliver intervention services. Funds may also be used to benefit a campus-wide programs, but cannot exceed $50 for each participating student and must be matched by other federal, state, or local funds, including private donations. In order to be eligible, any program must include 50% students who are at risk of dropping out of school.
- Funding for Innovative Programs. Provides funds for intensive technology-based supplementary instruction in English, math, science, or social studies for students in 9th - 12th grades who are identified as at risk of dropping out of school. Provides for the creation of intensive summer programs to provide rigorous academic instruction for at least four weeks of instruction.