Official dropout statistics are lowballed almost everywhere, people are starting to get serious about the real, very high, failure rates. In California, the best guess is that 30 percent of students drop out. A select committee in the state Senate is looking at ways to boost graduation rates.
Increasing the availability of college-prep classes is one proposal among the five bills (Sen. Darrell) Steinberg is pushing as part of his dropout prevention agenda. Fewer than half of California high schools now offer enough college-prep classes to allow all students to participate in the curriculum, according to UCLA researchers.
The other bills in his package would:
â€¢ Expand the number of high school students who simultaneously enroll in community college. More community colleges would be able to grant high school diplomas under Senate Bill 218.
â€¢ Change the way the state calculates the academic performance index, or API, with Senate Bill 219. In addition to reflecting student test scores, the API for each high school also would indicate how many students dropped out, the test scores of students re-assigned to alternative schools, the availability of college-prep courses and what kinds of jobs graduates hold.
â€¢ Offer more help to struggling middle schoolers. Schools would be required to provide interventions to students in sixth through ninth grades who fail a class or miss more than 10 days in one semester.
â€¢ Limit which high school students could hold jobs. Students would have to maintain a C-average and an 80 percent attendance record to receive a work permit from their school.
Starting help in middle school and denying work permits to teenagers with poor grades and attendance could make a difference.
The API idea sounds way too complicated: How should jobs held by graduates be evaluated? How many years after graduation? But I’d like to see a way to prevent high schools from boosting their scores by dumping their worst students into alternative programs, though I’m not sure how to do it. This is very, very common.
I don’t see how adding college-prep classes would prevent students from dropping out. And students already can take community college classes for high school credit. Many pre-dropouts aren’t motivated by the prospect of college. They could be motivated by vocational programs good enough to qualify them for decent jobs or apprenticeships.