How to End the Dropout Crisis: 10 Strategies for Student Retention
Are you in a seated position? It is estimated that approximately 7,000 students drop out of school every single day during the school year. This equates to a total of over one million students who do not graduate from high school each year. If they don’t get that diploma, they have a much higher chance of following a road that ends in jobs that pay less, worse health, and the possibility of continuing a cycle of poverty that creates enormous challenges for families, neighbourhoods, and communities. If they don’t get that diploma, they have a much higher chance of following a road that ends in jobs that pay less.
For some students, the decision to withdraw from school is the culmination of many years of academic struggles, false starts, and dead ends. Others make the decision to drop out of school as a result of competing pressures in their lives, such as the necessity of contributing financially to their family or the requirements of caring for either their siblings or their own child. Students sometimes drop out because they are unmotivated to continue their education and feel that there is no connection between their academic life and “real” life. It’s about kids and teenagers feeling cut off from each other, as well as from their teachers and the other adults they encounter at school. And it’s about communities and schools not having enough resources to meet the complex emotional and academic needs of their most at-risk children and teenagers.
The decision to withdraw from school can be motivated by a wide variety of factors; however, the results are almost always the same. People who did not complete high school are statistically likely to have lower lifetime earnings, worse health as adults, and a greater likelihood of ending up in jail than their peers who did complete high school. The economic and social effects of dropping out of high school in the Golden State were analysed and detailed in a report that was published by the California Dropout Research Project (PDF) in August of 2007. The following numbers, which are cited in the report, should give readers pause: Those who complete high school have a lifetime earnings potential that is nearly $290,000 higher than those who do not, and they are 68 percent less likely to require some form of government assistance. A high school diploma is associated with a 20% decrease in rates of violent crime, according to the data presented in the report. This link between the rate of high school dropouts and criminal activity is also well documented. And the implications for the national economy are crystal clear: According to research conducted in 2011 by the Alliance for Excellent Education, if the national dropout rate in 2010 was cut in half, for example (which would have impacted an estimated 1.3 million students in that year), “new” graduates would probably earn a collective $7.6 billion more in an average year than they would if they did not have a high school diploma.
The public’s attention has been brought to what has been referred to as the “silent epidemic” as a result of mounting research on the reasons for dropping out of school and the repercussions of doing so, as well as more accurate reporting on the scope of the problem. And with that focus comes the possibility of more action at the local, state, and national levels to implement a mix of reforms that will support all students through the process of graduating from high school. [Citation needed] These sorts of reforms include the early identification of students who are having difficulty in school and the provision of support for them, the creation of courses that are more pertinent and engaging, and the modification of the structure of the typical school day as well as its schedule.
Decades of research and isolated instances of success point to certain strategies as being effective. The following is a list of ten strategies that, if implemented, could assist in lowering the rate of students leaving their schools or communities. First, we take measures to connect students and parents to the school, and then we address changes to the school’s structure, its programming, and its funding.
1. Engage and Partner with Parents
It’s a tale that’s been told countless times: parent involvement in their children’s education wanes as their children get older and more self-sufficient. However, despite the fact that parents’ responsibilities shift when their children enter secondary school, continued parental involvement on a variety of fronts, including regular communication with faculty members, familiarity with their child’s class schedule and progression toward graduation, and so on, is essential to the success of students. The findings of a report published in March 2006 titled “The Silent Epidemic” highlight the significance of active parental participation throughout the secondary school years. Sixty-eight percent of the high school dropouts who took part in the study reported that their parents became involved in their education after discovering that their student was considering quitting high school.
In order to maintain parental involvement in their children’s academic endeavours, high school personnel in the city of Sacramento, California, schedule appointments with parents to conduct optional home visits. 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 the summer and fall to the parents of teens entering high school, which is a critical transition point for many students. The goal of these visits is to begin constructing a support network and to connect parents to their new school. Home visits are made during the summer, fall, and spring to students who are at risk of not graduating from high school due to deficiencies in the number of course credits they have earned, the possibility of failing the state high school exit exam (which is a requirement for graduation), or poor grades. These visits take place between and during the students’ sophomore and junior years. Students will have an opportunity to discuss their plans for either college or a career during visits during the summer after their junior year and in the fall of their senior year. Early evaluations of the programme carried out by Paul Tuss of the Sacramento County Office of Education’s Center for Student Assessment and Program Accountability discovered that students who received a home visit had a significantly increased likelihood of being successful in their exit exam intervention and academic-support classes, as well as passing the English portion of the exit exam. A subsequent assessment of the first group of pupils to enrol at Luther Burbank High School revealed that a significantly higher proportion of pupils achieved a passing grade on the final examination and went on to complete their secondary education. (To learn more about the Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project, check out their website.)
2. Cultivate Relationships
It’s possible for a concerned teacher or other reliable adult to be the deciding factor in whether or not a student continues their education. Because of this, secondary schools all over the country are introducing advisory programmes, which consist of smaller groups of students who get together with a member of the teaching staff to form a kind of extended family environment within the school. These advisory groups, which hold their meetings during the school day, offer a structured format that makes it possible for supportive relationships to develop and flourish. The most successful advisory groups hold regular meetings, maintain their membership for a number of years, and participate in professional development activities that assist teachers in meeting the academic, social, and emotional needs of their students. The Austin Independent School District in the state of Texas started implementing advisories into all of its high schools during the 2007–2008 school year. The goals of these advisories were to ensure that every student had at least one adult in their school life who knew them well, to build community by developing stronger bonds between students of different social groups, to educate students on vital life skills, and to create a forum for academic advising as well as college and career coaching. (Click here to access a summary of the findings of a survey conducted in 2010 regarding Austin’s advisory programme in the form of a PDF.)
3. Pay Attention to Warning Signs
The research that was conducted 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 of school, and identify the early-warning signs that should alert teachers, school staff, and pa rents led to the formation of Project U-Turn, which is a collaboration among foundations, parents, young people, and youth-serving organisations such as the school district and city agencies in Philadelphia. Project U-Turn is Researchers were able to identify students who were most likely to drop out of school after reviewing data spanning approximately five years. These students were predicted based on factors that included:
The most important indicators were a failing final grade in English or mathematics and missing more than 20 percent of school days when the students were in the eighth grade. Poor attendance, which is defined as attending classes less than 70 percent of the time, earning fewer than two credits during ninth grade, and/or not being promoted to 10th grade on time were all factors that put students at a significantly higher risk of not graduating, and were key predictors of dropping out. Poor attendance among ninth graders was defined as attending classes less than 70 percent of the time. Armed with this knowledge, the staff members at the school district, city, and partner organisations have been developing strategies and practises that give both dropouts and at-risk students a web of increased support and services. These include providing dropout-prevention specialists in several high schools, establishing accelerated-learning programmes for older students who are behind on credits, and implementing reading programmes for older students whose skills are well belo Reading programmes have been implemented for older students whose skills are well belo
4. Make Learning Relevant
Students frequently stop coming to school and eventually drop out because they are disinterested or bored in the subject matter being taught. According to the study “The Silent Epidemic,” nearly half of high school dropouts cite uninteresting coursework as a primary motivation for abandoning their education. All students, but especially those who learn best through direct experience, are afforded the opportunity to make a stronger and more meaningful connection to the content of their academic studies when instruction takes them into the larger community.
For instance, during the regular school week at Big Picture Learning schools located all over the United States, students have the opportunity to participate in internships at local businesses and nonprofit organisations. Students collaborate with faculty advisors to learn more about topics that pique their interest and to conduct internship research and placement; following this, mentors in the working world collaborate with students and faculty to develop programmes that create bridges between the student’s academic and professional lives. The graduation rate for students who attend Big Picture schools is ninety percent on time across the nation. Watch a video on Big Picture Schools provided by Edutopia here.
5. Raise the Academic Bar
It is not necessary that increased difficulty result in increased dropout rates. Not only have higher expectations and more difficult curricula been shown to be an effective strategy for increasing graduation rates, but they have also been shown to be an effective strategy for preparing students to graduate from high school with options. This can be accomplished by providing students with the support they require to be successful. In the year 1998, the San Jose Unified School District in California made it mandatory for all students to follow a curriculum that was designed to prepare them for college. The increased amount of work, contrary to the fears of early naysayers, did not result in a precipitous drop in the number of students who graduated. In comparison to the average of 18.2 percent across the state, the San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD) only has a dropout rate of 11.4 percent after four years of schooling.
6. Think Small
6. Think Small
Large comprehensive high schools are, for far too many students, environments in which they are more likely to flounder than to flourish. As a result of this, school districts all over the United States are working to personalise learning as part of their strategy to reduce the number of students who drop out of school by either creating smaller schools or reorganising larger schools into smaller learning communities. A study that was conducted in 2010 by the MDRC and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation analysed the 123 “small schools of choice,” also known as SSCs, that have opened in New York City since 2002. According to the report, the graduation rate at the new schools was significantly higher than that of 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 to 48.5 percent of their peers enrolled in other schools. Graduation rates increased by 6.8 percentage points by the end of the fourth year for students enrolled in SSCs.
7. Rethink Schedules
Some students are unable to attend school during the traditional bell schedule because they are required to fulfil other obligations, such as those associated with their jobs or their families. Districts with a forward-thinking mentality recognise the need to develop alternative solutions. Students at Liberty High School, a public charter school in Houston that primarily serves recent immigrants, have the option of attending classes on the weekends and in the evenings. This gives them a flexible schedule that allows them to work or take care of other responsibilities while still going to school. Students at Cowan Sunset Southeast High School in Las Vegas have the opportunity to attend classes in the late afternoon and early evening in order to better accommodate their work schedules. Additionally, these students may be eligible for child care, which is provided on a limited basis in order to assist young parents in continuing their education. You can learn more about Cowan Sunset High School by watching a video on Edutopia.
8. Develop a Community Plan
The Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University recommends the creation of a community-based strategy to address the issue in its report titled “What Your Community Can Do to End Its Drop-out Crisis,” which was published in May of 2007. The report’s subtitle is “What Your Community Can Do to End Its Drop-out Crisis.” The following are the three most important components that author Robert Balfanz outlines for a community-driven plan: The first step is to gain knowledge, which includes having an understanding of the magnitude of the issue as well as the existing policies, procedures, and resources that are geared toward solving it. The second step is strategy, which includes the creation of what Balfanz calls a “dropout prevention, intervention, and recovery plan” that concentrates the efforts of the community’s resources. The final step is to conduct ongoing assessment, which entails performing regular evaluations and making continuous improvements to existing procedures in order to guarantee that community initiatives are having the intended impact.
9. Invest in Preschool
Clive R. Belfield and Henry M. Levin reviewed both evidential and promising research as well as interventions that were economically beneficial in their report titled “The Return on Investment for Improving California’s High School Graduation Rate” (PDF) that was published in August of 2007. The report was written in an effort to address the dropout crisis. They contend that sending children to preschool at a young age is an investment that will pay significant financial dividends in the future. The authors found that one preschool programme increased high school graduation rates by 11 percent, and another preschool programme increased graduation rates by 19 percent, as a result of their review of the research on preschool models in California and elsewhere. An article that was written in 2011 and published in Science by researchers who followed participants in Chicago’s early childhood education programme Child-Parent Center for 25 years found, among other things, that by the age of 28, the group that began preschool at the age of three or four had higher educational levels and incomes, as well as lower substance abuse problems. The study was conducted by scientists who worked at the University of Chicago.
10. Adopt a Student-Centered Funding Model
According to the findings of research, it is more expensive to educate certain students, such as students who are living in poverty, students who are learning English, and students who have disabilities. In response to this demand, some school districts have moved to implement a student-centered funding model. This model adjusts the total amount of funding based on the demographics of individual students and schools, and it also brings funding into closer alignment with the specific requirements of each school. It is possible for schools with more challenging populations to gain access to additional resources through flexible funding. This gives these schools the ability to take necessary steps, such as reducing class sizes, hiring teachers with more experience and effectiveness, and implementing additional programmes and services to support students who have 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 currently utilising this option. These districts include those in Denver, New York City, Oakland and San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Seattle, Baltimore, Hartford, and Cincinnati, as well as the state of Hawaii, which has on average one of the highest per-pupil expenditures in the country.