Diplomas Count - Issue 34, 2013 - (Page 14)
EDUCATION WEEK JUNE 6, 2013
Diplomas Count > www.edweek.org/go/dc13
Keeping Students in School
Many dropouts try at least once to return
t takes time, patience, effort, and luck to find
students who leave school and return them to
the classroom. But getting them back is the
easy part: Keeping them long enough to get a
diploma is another thing entirely.
Jennifer Harris, the program evaluator for
the high school graduation initiative in Washoe
County, Nev., found that out the hard way. Back
in 2008, the 63,000-student Reno-area district had
a nasty shock when new federal graduation calculations showed it graduated a little more than half
its incoming freshmen four years later. Eighteen of
its high schools were dubbed “dropout factories” by
a national research and advocacy group.
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.
Two years later, as the initiative was building
momentum, Harris noticed a problem: “We found
about 17 percent of the students who had come
back dropped out again within the year,” she says.
“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. Many of the
reasons that led students to disengage in the first
place are still there when the students come back.”
Washoe County is not alone in that struggle.
There are no national figures on the number of
dropouts who re-enroll, but studies of cities and
districts find one-third to one-half of out-of-school
youths do try at least once again to complete high
school before aging out of the K-12 system.
Students often return more motivated to succeed—but then are “expected to navigate a complex maze of systems, services, and programs as
they complete their education and prepare for a
career,” researchers from the nonprofit international consulting group fsg found. “The greater
the number of challenges youths face, the harder
and more confusing this navigation becomes,” they
wrote in a report.
Cycle of Frustration
So students drop out again. And again. And
again, while their schools take financial and accountability hits every time they leave. Most state
accountability systems give schools and districts
little credit for re-enrolling students who have little chance of graduating within four years, or even
six years for an extended graduation rate, says
Andrew O. Moore, a senior fellow at the National
League of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education,
and Families in Washington.
As a result, once a returning student leaves a
dropout-recovery program, “the kid’s in double
jeopardy; there’s no great incentive for school districts to seek these kids out,” says Mark Claypool,
a former social worker and the president and chief
executive officer of Educational Services of America Inc., a Nashville, Tenn., for-profit that provides
dropout-recovery programs in 24 states.
In one of the most comprehensive studies of returning students, BethAnn Berliner, a research associate for the federal regional educational lab at
WestEd, in San Francisco, followed the 1,352 stu-
dents who dropped out of San Bernadino, Calif.,
public schools between 2001 and 2006. More than
30 percent returned to school at least once—a
handful of dogged souls came back three times—
but in the end, only one in 20 actually made it
to graduation. The rest struggled a while longer,
earning a few credits before giving up on high
school for good.
“There’s the reality that these kids, the first time
they dropped out, had probably been noteworthy in their behavior, and when they come back,
they’re not always welcome; they have a reputation,” Claypool says. “That’s a strong headwind for
these kids to move against.”
Boston policymakers have found that, particularly in the first year, students’ return can be tenuous: “If there’s a returning dropout and someone
says to them, ‘You’re too old, why are you here?’
even if you’ve just negotiated to have them back
in the schools, the next day they’re gone, that’s it,”
says Kathy Hamilton, the youth-transitions director for the Boston Private Industry Council, a local
community and workforce investment group that
paired with the Boston schools to create one of the
nation’s first “re-engagement centers” to identify,
recruit, and place out-of-school youths.
It has worked with Boston schools to create
rolling lists of chronically absent students for outreach every month, rather than at the end of each
year, to find students in the critical first weeks
after dropping out, figure out what went wrong,
and help them find a way to continue high school.
This year, the center is also testing the use of graduation coaches for former dropouts in two schools
with high rates of multiple dropouts.
Of the 1,352 students who dropped out of
the San Bernadino, Calif., public schools
from 2001-02 to 2005-06, most left for good,
WestEd researchers found. Fewer than a
third of dropouts returned to their home
schools—sometimes trying several times—
and only 77 students ultimately graduated.
SOURCE: WestEd, “The Reenrollment
of High School Dropouts in One Large,
Urban School District”
Number of times
“Many of the
in the first place
are still there
Washoe County, Nev.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Diplomas Count - Issue 34, 2013
Diplomas Count - Issue 34, 2013
A ‘Neglected’ Population Goes Back to School
Age Can Determine Access To Free Education, Diploma Pathways
State Statistics and Strategies
High School Equivalency Test Gets a Makeover
Reasons to Stay: Tailored Interventions
Online Providers Find a Market In Returning Dropouts
Second-Chance Challenge: Keeping Students in School
A Chicago Charter Network Stanches The Flow of Dropouts
Sound-Engineering Class Hooks Reluctant Student
Teenage Father Makes Journey From Dropout to Top Student
Honor Student Disconnects, Re-engages at CCA
Graduation Rate Approaching Milestone
TABLE: Graduation in the United States
DATA: Detailed Analytic Portrait
TABLE: Graduation Policies For the Class of 2013
Sources and Notes
Diplomas Count - Issue 34, 2013