Our Shared Responsibility: Preventing Dropouts

First off, let me express how excited I am to be back!  After three months of maternity leave, I’m ready to pick up where I left off.  

I’ve written about our high school dropout crisis before but thought I’d revisit the issue given recent media coverage.  CBS News’ “Where America Stands” series recently focused on the problem of high school dropouts.  The news report included the following statistics which, even though they are not new to me, still shock and upset:

  • Of the 4 million students who enter high school every year, one million of them will drop out before graduation.  That calculates to 7,000 every school day – one dropout every 26 seconds.
  • Dropouts cost taxpayers more than $8 billion annually in public assistance programs like food stamps.
  • High school dropouts earn about $10,000 less a year than high school graduates.  They are more likely to be unemployed:  15 percent are out of work versus a national average of 9.4 percent.  And, sadly, they are more likely to be incarcerated, with almost 60 percent of federal inmates being high school dropouts.
  • Locally, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education, more than 6,200 students did not graduate from Hawaii’s high schools in 2009.  The lost lifetime earnings in Hawaii for that class of dropouts alone total more than $1.6 billion.  If Hawaii’s high schools graduated all of their students ready for college, the state would save almost $13.7 million a year in community college remediation costs and lost earnings.  To see these statistics and others, click here.   

The report emphasizes that this is a societal problem – one that does not only impact students and their families, teachers, and schools.  The report briefly describes some school innovations aimed at curbing the dropout rate such as early warning systems with social services (Diplomas Now is an excellent model), smaller class sizes or even smaller learning academies, more emphasis on essential skills early in high school, with 9th grade being a critical “make-or-break” year.  There are also national initiatives like the NGA Dropout Prevention Initiative within which selected states commit to a two-year reform effort with support from NGA.  Locally, we have P20’s Step Up campaign, designed to motivate students to think beyond school.  Students pledge to earn the BOE Step Up diploma in 8th and 9th grade.

IAAK’s resources, by design, can help teachers engage students, differentiate instruction, and recognize achievements, all key factors in helping students succeed.  Here are a few examples:

  • Promethean’s ActivClassroom (interactive whiteboard and learner response system) – allows for greater interactivity, formative assessment, integration of diverse instructional strategies which leads to greater student achievement (for Marzano research findings, click here)
  • uBoost – performance-based rewards and recognition platform that enables teachers to reinforce key behaviors tied success
  • E2020 – online courseware used by many schools in Hawaii for credit recovery, offering students an alternative, individualized learning program

Since this crisis is our shared problem, what will you do to address it?

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