Dropouts are ‘recovered,’ lost again

One third to one half of dropouts return to their old high school for a second try, but few earn a diploma, reports Education Week.

In 2008, Washoe County, Nevada (Reno) realized it was graduating a little more than half its students in four years; 18 high schools were dubbed “dropout factories.”

In response, the district launched a massive graduation initiative: early-warning data systems to alert principals to at-risk students, graduation advisers to keep students from leaving, and intense outreach to bring back the students who had already left.

“We’ve gotten pretty good at finding and recovering students through our re-engagement centers, but we still find it a big challenge to keep them from redropping out once we’ve found them,” says coordinator Jennifer Harris. “Many of the reasons that led students to disengage in the first place are still there when the students come back.”

A number of cities, including Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Portland, Oregon have set up “re-engagement centers” to help dropouts “find a new school or online classes; connect with social workers and therapists when needed; and plan for college and a career.”

Boston’s South Roxbury re-engagement center, which is next to a technical high school and evening campus, brought in 501 of 867 dropouts contacted. Most, 441, were referred to district schools, alternative campuses, and charters, 60 were referred to adult ed or GED programs and the rest used an online lab and credit-recovery courses. Fifty-four students graduated by the end of the school year; 38 more were on track to graduate by August.

In Chicago, where slightly more than 60 percent of students graduated from high school on time last year, a network of charter schools specializes in serving recovered dropouts or students who were struggling in their traditional schools. The 22 schools in the Youth Connection Charter School network are small, and each draws on community groups and local colleges and universities to provide an array of supports and services, including opportunities for students to earn college credits as they are making up their missing high school credits.

YCCS claims a higher graduation rate than the Chicago Public Schools.

Ed Week‘s interactive game, A Difficult Path, shows the steps that lead to dropping out, starting with not asking the teacher for help with a difficult class.

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  1. Has it occurred to any of the decision-making educrats and politicians that it might be helpful if kids were grouped according to academic need, by subject, starting in kindergarten, so that those needing more time and more help might get those things before they are hopelessly lost, far behind and discouraged? They might then actually arrive in MS ready to do MS-level work and in HS ready to do HS-level work. Not pretending that ALL must do “college prep” or be considered a failure would also be helpful and might lead to increased interest in voc ed.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    But momof4, then they would have to recognize that all kids aren’t exactly the same in terms of ability, talents and drive! As we are more and more a meritocracy, there are more and more unwilling to acknowledge it. It is the Progressive point of view that people are completely elastic and interchangeable and all one needs to do is apply the correct stimulus. And given the average Progressive, no amount of evidence to the contrary will ever convince them their view is incorrect.

    • Classics Mom says:

      I am a pretty much a liberal and I definitely think we are have differing abilities! I am also totally in favor of flexible tracking as well as radical school choice.

  3. momof4,

    As I’ve often said in many posts, the terms grouping by ability and ‘tracking’ are very dirty words in the public school system. Here in Southern Nevada, we just had a school which was ranked as a high performing school earning four out of five stars (on a system which was made obsolete today) despite only having 55 percent graduation rate, 5 percent pass rate on the Algebra I final exam, and a 33 percent passing rate for sophomores (10th graders) on a reading test.

    The high school (Western High School) is now ranked at two stars, along with 57 other schools (Clark County in Nevada is the nation’s 5th largest school district at some 310,000 students in grades K-12, but only manages to graduate 61% of it’s high school students).

    Many students who go back to high school for a 2nd try usually wind up failing due to the fact that they’re so far behind on credits and basic skills that there is NO practical way for them to finish all of the material they need to make up.

    I’m also very skeptical of credit recovery programs in which it was reported in the past that students in some schools were given an entire semester’s worth of credit for being in a class for 4 hours (sounds like a first class sham to me).


  4. The ed world spends more time, attention and resources on those kids who lack the cognitive ability and/or the motivation necessary for learning academic material than they do on those kids who have the ability and the motivation. The assumption, which has been explicitly stated for over 50 years, is that those kids will do fine, anyway. Imagine what they might do if given challenges appropriate to their various levels. A poster that decorated many college rooms, during my undergrad years, expressed the sentiment “It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you’re surrounded by turkeys”, with a suitable photo. It’s not a flattering or PC analogy, but it’s apt.