High-school
dropouts is a common thing that is regular for some people that should be
helped and prevented. If we take these precautions and continue to encourage
graduation with rewards and achievement, the rate can go down even lower and it
can be a better future for everybody.

All students have personal interests, and creative
teachers will find ways to link these interests to the classroom topics. Such
linking combines personal with situational interest, which will prevent boredom
and ultimately could help to reduce school dropout. A good example is found in
the increasingly popular senior projects, where high school seniors select a
topic in which they have personal interest, research it, write a paper on it,
and prepare and deliver a presentation that includes props. This assignment is
part of the school’s academic program and is used in one of the classes (e.g.,
English). It allows students to explore in greater depth a topic in which they
are interested and which they choose. The assignment includes different
activities, thereby ensuring a varied format. Students set their own schedules
to complete the assignment and choose their presentation formats and props.
Senior projects combine personal with situational interest and show students
how school learning can be enjoyable and can facilitate their understanding of
a topic of high interest to them. Students who do not plan to attend college
could choose a senior project linked to a vocational interest. Teachers could
show students how the project will improve their work skills and potentially
help them in their careers. This belief might help students stay in school.

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We do not mean to downplay skill deficits, because no
amount of interest will lead to a skillful performance when capabilities are
lacking. Most students at risk for school dropout need remedial assistance in
order to enjoy some measure of success. Skill remediation programs, combined
with linking students’ interests with learning, may help to reduce the dropout rate
and thus contribute to a more productive citizenry.

It’s an all-too-familiar story: Parent involvement
declines as students get older and become more independent. But although the
role of parents changes in secondary school, their ongoing engagement — from
regular communication with school staff to familiarity with their child’s
schedule, courses, and progress toward graduation — remains central to
students’ success. Findings in a March 2006 report, “The Silent
Epidemic,” illustrate the importance of engaged parents throughout
secondary school. Sixty-eight percent of the high school dropouts who
participated in the study said their parents became involved in their education
only after realizing their student was contemplating dropping out of school.

 

In Sacramento, California, high school staff members
make appointments with parents for voluntary home visits, to keep parents
engaged with their children’s progress. This strategy — which has so far been
replicated nationally in eleven states, plus the District of Columbia —
includes placing as many visits as possible during summer and fall to parents
of teens entering high school — a critical transition point for many students
— to begin building a net of support and to connect parents to the new school.
Staffers also conduct summer, fall, and spring home visits between and during
the sophomore and junior years to students who are at risk of not graduating
because of deficiencies in course credits, the possibility of failing the state
high school exit exam (a condition of graduation), or poor grades. Visits in
the summer after junior year and fall of senior year are to ensure that
students are on track for either career or college. Early evaluations of the
program by Paul Tuss of Sacramento County Office of Education’s Center for
Student Assessment and Program Accountability found that students who received
a home visit were considerably more likely to be successful in their exit exam
intervention and academic-support classes and pass the English portion of the
exit exam. A follow-up evaluation of the initial cohort of students at Luther
Burbank High School showed that the students both passed the exit exam and
graduated high school at significantly higher rates.

a collaboration among foundations, parents, young
people, and youth-serving organizations such as the school district and city
agencies in Philadelphia, grew out of research that analyzed a variety of data
sources in order to develop a clear picture of the nature of Philadelphia’s
dropout problem, get a deeper understanding of which students were most likely
to drop out, and identify the early-warning signs that should alert teachers,
school staff, and parents to the need for interventions. After looking at data
spanning some five years, researchers were able to see predictors of students
who were most at risk of not graduating.

Boredom and disengagement are two key reasons students
stop attending class and wind up dropping out of school. In “The Silent
Epidemic,” 47 percent of dropouts said a major reason for leaving school
was that their classes were not interesting. Instruction that takes students
into the broader community provides opportunities for all students —
especially experiential learners — to connect to academics in a deeper, more
powerful way.

 

For example, at Big Picture Learning schools
throughout the country, internships in local businesses and nonprofit
organizations are integrated into the regular school week. Students work with
teacher advisers to find out more about what interests them and to research and
locate internships; then on-the-job mentors work with students and school
faculty to design programs that build connections between work life and
academics. Nationwide, Big Picture schools have an on-time graduation rate of
90 percent. Watch an Edutopia video about Big Picture Schools.

Increased rigor doesn’t have to mean increased dropout
rates. Higher expectations and more challenging curriculum, coupled with the
support students need to be successful, have proven to be an effective strategy
not only for increasing graduation rates, but also for preparing students to
graduate from high school with options. In San Jose, California, the San Jose
Unified School District implemented a college-preparatory curriculum for all
students in 1998. Contrary to the concerns of early skeptics, the more rigorous
workload didn’t cause graduation rates to plummet. Recent data shows that the
SJUSD has a four-year dropout rate of just 11.4 percent, compared with a
statewide average of 18.2 percent.

or too many students, large comprehensive high schools
are a place to get lost rather than to thrive. That’s why districts throughout
the country are working to personalize learning by creating small schools or
reorganizing large schools into small learning communities, as part of their
strategy for reducing the dropout rate. A 2010 MDRC report funded by the Bill
& Melinda Gates Foundation looked at the 123 “small schools of
choice,” or SSCs, that have opened in New York City since 2002. The report
showed higher graduation rates at the new schools compared with their much
larger predecessors. By the end of their first year in high school, 58.5
percent of students enrolled in SSCs were on track to graduate, compared with
48.5 percent of their peers in other schools, and by the fourth year,
graduation rates increased by 6.8 percentage points.

       For some
students, the demands of a job or family responsibilities make it impossible to
attend school during the traditional bell schedule. Forward-thinking districts
recognize the need to come up with alternatives. Liberty High School, a Houston
public charter school serving recent immigrants, offers weekend and evening
classes, providing students with flexible scheduling that enables them to work
or handle other responsibilities while still attending school. Similarly, in
Las Vegas, students at Cowan Sunset Southeast High School’s campus can attend
classes in the late afternoon and early evening to accommodate work schedules,
and they may be eligible for child care, which is offered on a limited basis to
help young parents continue their education. Watch an Edutopia video about
Cowan Sunset High School.

Research shows that it costs more to educate some
students, including students living in poverty, English-language learners, and
students with disabilities. Recognizing this need, some districts have adopted
a student-centered funding model, which adjusts the funding amount based on the
demographics of individual students and schools, and more closely aligns funding
to their unique needs. Flexible funding enables schools with more challenging
populations to gain access to more resources so they can take needed steps such
as reducing class size, hiring more experienced and effective teachers, and
implementing other programs and services to support students with greater
needs.

 

Although switching to this funding model does require
an infusion of new dollars — to support the added costs associated with
educating certain groups of students without reducing funds to schools with
smaller at-risk populations — many districts have already explored or are
using this option, including districts in Denver, New York City, Oakland and
San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Seattle, Baltimore, Hartford,
Cincinnati, and the state of Hawaii, which has only one school district.