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.

Many choices, little guidance

Community college students have many choices and little guidance in setting academic or career goals, concludes a new study. Many are overwhelmed.

At an Oakland community college where only 20 percent of students transfer to pursue a bachelor’s degree, a professor’s transfer club is raising the odds. The club’s mascot is an animated Spanglish-speaking Chihuahua that says, “Yo quiero transfer.”

Auschwitz survivor’s triumph: He educated his sons

An uneducated refugee, Harley Rotbart’s father educated his sons and liberated himself from his past, writes the doctor in the New York Times.

Dad hadn’t traveled much since the “big trip” to America from Poland. He was an Auschwitz survivor (No. 142178 tattooed on his arm) who lost his parents and sister in the concentration camps. My father had enough strength left to be selected for labor by the Nazis, and survived until liberation.

Still, true liberation didn’t come until that rainy graduation weekend in New York.

The family came to New York City for Rotbart’s medical school graduation.

Dad was a fruit peddler in Denver: Max’s Mobile Market. . . . Deprived of a high school education when the Nazis raided his town of Klodowa, he came to America years later as an apprehensive, thickly accented refugee from the unspeakable horrors of Europe. Despite many years in America, the emotional scars were still there. He had a sense of inferiority and was intimidated by those around him who had an education.

He’d always felt like the immigrant in the room. But in audience filled with doctors and the families of doctors, he lost his self-consciousness, fell to his knees and “shook and shivered and sobbed.”

 On that day, and again in a similar scene at my brother’s journalism school ceremony the next year, Dad was liberated from Auschwitz. He was no longer “142178,” a Nazi victim. My father could now stand face to face with doctors, journalists and other accomplished Americans. Although uneducated himself, he had educated his kids . . . No longer bound by the restraints life had forced on him, he reveled in what this new country had given him. He reveled in his family and in his fruit truck. He reveled in personally defeating Hitler. At his sons’ graduations, he graduated to freedom.

Dr. Rotbart, a pediatrician, is the author of No Regrets Parenting: Turning Long Days and Short Years into Cherished Moments with your Kids.

Bridging the higher ed divide

Increasingly, higher education is separate and unequal concludes a new report on Bridging the Higher Education Divide. Community colleges try to educate the neediest students with “unequal financial resources . . . unequal curricula, expectations, and school cultures.”

While more than 81 percent of entering community college students say they want to transfer and earn at least a bachelor’s degree, only 11 percent do so within six years.

Keep the college door open, writes a community college dean. We don’t know who should go.

Testing college motivation

Colleges are trying out an online college readiness exam called SuccessNavigator that claims to measure motivation, self-management and “grit.”

Open-access colleges are under pressure to graduate more students while spending less. But completion-boosting strategies may not be cost effective and cost-cutting strategies may raise the cost per degree.

Also: It’s the learning, stupid.


CCs try to double graduation numbers

Community college leaders are trying to double the number of graduates by 2020 to meet President Obama’s goals.

“Many people working in community colleges still do not understand how abysmal our graduation rates or our student retention rates or course completion rates are,” says Angela Oriano, associate director at the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) at the University of Texas at Austin.

Ready or not, students get college aid

Pell Grant recipients, who come from lower-income families, often start college in remedial classes and drop out before earning a degree. Requiring evidence of college readiness, such as SAT scores of at least 850 (verbal and math) and a 2.5 grade point average in high school, would boost success rates, but limit access.

California leads the nation in poorly educated adults and in low-income workers, not a coincidence. Should community colleges take over adult education? 

Better high schools for low achievers

“New York City’s lowest-achieving students are, on average, attending higher quality high schools than in years past, and graduating in higher numbers, concludes  High School Choice in New York City, a new report by the Research Alliance for NYC Schools. But it’s not clear whether the city’s policy of universal high school choice is responsible.

California debates performance funding

California Gov. Jerry Brown wants to tie a percentage of university funding to performance goals, such as raising four-year graduation rates. But university officials say the plan is unrealistic.

After 30 years, still at risk?

Thirty years ago, the Nation At Risk report warned that “a rising tide of mediocrity” -- low educational standards — “threatens our very future as a nation and a people.”

High schools pushed students to take more rigorous college-prep courses. Students now earn significantly more science and math credits, notes the Washington Post.

Other recommendations, such as extending the school year to 220 days and paying teachers for 11 months of work, were ignored.

A Nation At Risk kicked off the education reform movement

Where Are We Now? asks Education Week.

Rigor is the answer writes Core Knowledge’s Lisa Hansel on the Shanker Blog. “Progressive educators’ misunderstandings of the essential role of specific, relevant knowledge in reading comprehension and critical thinking resulted in weak curricula being the norm and pockets of excellence typically being reserved for our most advantaged youth,’she writes.

Here’s an analysis from Fordham and the American Enterprise Institute: