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Federal Pilot Would Give Funding Flexibility to Help Dropouts

In the drive to boost graduation rates, education policymakers typically focus on preventing students from leaving school far more than retrieving students who have already dropped out, but a proposed federal pilot program is looking for ways to make dropout recovery a bigger part of the equation.

In a draft goal statement, the Obama administration's Interagency Forum on Disconnected Youth argues that "siloed administrative and reporting requirements can make it unintentionally difficult for providers to give youth the comprehensive, effective services they need."

President Obama's 2013 budget included proposals for "performance partnerships," which give states and communities flexibility to use discretionary money from various federal funding streams in pilot programs, in exchange for being held more closely accountable for meeting their project's goals. Federal education, labor and health departments would supervise the partnership pilots focused on disconnected youth—those ages 14 to 24 who are homeless, in foster care or in the justice system, or who are neither in school nor working.

While Congress has so far not funded the pilots, the agencies are already taking some steps in that direction. For example, the Labor Department is designing a demonstration pilot to test various dropout re-engagement models, including community-based interventions, industry training programs, and programs that combine education with work, social support services, and mentoring.

At a recent meeting of the Institute of Education Sciences advisory board, Deborah Speece, the outgoing commissioner of the National Center on Special Education Research, called on the board to explore the "researchable questions" that might lead to better policies and programs to support disconnected youth.

You can read more about research and programs to help disconnected youth in the annual Diplomas Count.

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