« Teachers to the Test? | Main | SAT Questions »

Decreasing Dropouts


In Guilford County, N.C., small, college-based programs are offered in lieu of a traditional high school environment as part of a strategy to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of students in its middle and high schools, where racial and ethnic diversity and poverty have been on the rise. As a result of such efforts the high school dropout rate has fallen by almost 50 percent in grades 9-12 since 1999.

What programs are you familiar with that have successfully decreased dropout rates in high schools? What factors should school leaders be paying attention to for dropout rates to fall?


I have seen two of Dr. Grier's presentations on student achievement and I find these to be showcases for how to change the educational environment in a most positive way.

The rest of us need to be looking to Guildford much more closely as it appears that kids are succeeding here!

At the Bayard Rustin Living Learning Center, launching in fall 2005 in Oklahoma City, we are taking a project-based learning approach that is closely tied to student interests and state standards.

I spent 8 years teaching science at one of the longest-running alternative high schools in the country. There I learned the secret to success for at-risk students is individualization. That applies to everything, not just the curriculum. The biggest hurdle is to convince kids who have been labeled as failures into believing that they are not...that they can succeed and have a meaningful, productive future. What amazed me the most in my years there, was how many highly intelligent, even gifted, students are high school dropouts or near-dropouts!

The National Dropout Prevention Center/Network (NDPC/N) and the National Dropout Prevention Center for Students with Disabilities (NDPC-SD)have identified model programs that can be replicated. Our web address is http://www.dropoutprevention.org
NDPC/N has developed 15 effective strategies for dropout prevention http://www.dropoutprevention.org/effstrat/effstrat.htm

I've found over the years that while a great deal of data is collected, voluntary or compulsory, there is little understanding of the educational system producing the data. Thus, no improvement in systemic terms happens since no systemic analysis occurs. It is a case not knowing what to do, and falling back on belief patterns instead of empirical evidence and, thus, prediction is nearly impossible.

The educational systems produce "losers" and competitors instead of learners and cooperatives. This is folly, and the children and young adults are the victims. Dropouts are a function of the system; the more variation in the system, the higher the likelihood of increased dropout rates.

NCLB is an example of what's wrong, not what is right with this thinking. When will the administrators learn that the "catch" is dependent on the net, not on the fish?

Let's slam NCLB and the "system"! Typical. The purpose of allowing readers to comment is to receive comments on what schools and school districts are doing to improve the situation.

I appreciate Mr. Willis comment, but I think he missed my point entirely.

I apologize for miscommunicating, but that is the way to improve the situation; first one has to understand it. Not some vague "sytem" undefined, but the educational system in your town, your state or mine.

I appreciate Mr. Willis comment, but I think he missed my point entirely.

I apologize for miscommunicating, but that is the way to improve the situation; first one has to understand it. Not some vague "sytem" undefined, but the educational system in your town, your state or mine.

I believe the NCLB has made significant steps in reducing secondary dropout! Unfortunately, all the drop-outs are off the grid and do not exist in demographics anymore.
The truth is that there are MORE drop-outs today than there has ever been. The danger to our society is that these students are so disconnected to the real world.
They have little direction, self worth, or saleable skills.
NCLB and remediation has driven the sector of our society that needs BASIC SKILLS to build their their connection to society into the "lost" category.
There are few places left in California schools where kids can learn skills, much less the "Work ethic" that is so lacking in todays young employees! These are never out of date!
The concept that "Every" student is going to college is insane. The opportunity for those who are able to handle colege is great. What do those who can't handle college do? There is no back up plan except "drop out" all over again!
Go to http://empower-visa.com/ and find where your future craftsman is going to come from! These are your 40-80K $ jobs, middle class!

As a former administrator of special purpose schools/programs, including an alternative high school, I believe the critical component of successful alternative high schools/programs is the individulization and personalization of each student's course of study. The students participated in developing their own academic and personal goals, and with the assistance of a teacher serving as a mentor and counselor, they also monitored and evaluated their progress toward achieving their goals. Therefore, students were empowered in a positive manner, rather than being subjected to the typical one size fits all, square peg in square hole philosophy of many traditional high schools which may cause some students to rebel or refuse to play the game. Another attribute of successful alternative school programs is the ability to connect the students' learning to the real world in regards to employment, community service, personal finance, and varous enrichment activities. The teachers provided more individual time to address the needs of each student and their family, thus providing a much more personalized approach which fostered mutual respect and demonstrated genuine concern for each student while recognizing them for thier individual accomplishments as well as their contribution to their team, school, and community.

I am looking for websites on college retention in developmental reading students research.If you have ideas to share please contact me at [email protected]


I appreciate the comments regarding individual programs and philosophy. Our programs serve area school districts as their alternative services for dropout prevention and recovery.

I have been working in alternative education for six years and agree that the key to success for these students is individual attention and ownership of their education. While we have made great strides to improve the curriculum and have worked with teachers to help them understand the climate needed, questions still arise annually about how to retain students in our programs and to increase graduate numbers.

Three of our programs are serving at risk teen boys in psychiatric residential settings and the other 4 are community-based learning labs. I am interested in researching new resources to improve the curriculum delivery and teacher/staff training for successful programs. I would be grateful for any resource references or program outlines that anyone has to share.

I feel one crucial place to address the problem of drop-outs is in the middle school. Middle school programs are primarily set up to prepare students for a high school diploma and college. If a student is not a perfect "fit" for this program, they have to fail for years before they are eligible to be part of vocational or alternative programs. By then, damage has been done to their self-esteem. I feel that a choice of programs is important at grades 6 through 8. I'm thinking of work-study programs and community service programs.

I have written on this subject. Those interested should read my article at carolinajournal.com
Put my name "Karen Welsh" in the website's search engine. The article should pop up.

The School Attendance Review Boards (SARB)process was created by the California Legislature to create a safety net for students in danger of dropping out. The process is described in California Education Code Sections 48320 to 48325 and on the California Department of Education Web site at http:www.cde.ca.gov/26985. The SARB Handbook may be downloaded from the Web site. The SARB process has been highly effective in reducing the dropout rate in school districts which have implemented it.

Middle school is "decision-making time." If we have not motivated students at that level, many exit 8th grade with plans to drop out as soon as it's legal to do so (age 16 in MA). Our work is focused on reducing the dropout rate and increasing student achievement in standards-based learning through change in instructional practices - from the elementary level up.
1.Authenticity: Relate curriculum standards to the "real" world. 2. Personalization: Bring more "experts" into classrooms to increase adult role models in students' lives. 3. Motivation: Use research-based, student-centered practices.

Does anyone have access to surveys that have effectively assessed middle school students at risk of dropping out? What actions have you taken?

Why still everbody talks about teaching, that is forcing somebody to eat.
Let us concentrate on learning, that is making eating pleasurable.

After my daughter graduated from high school she went straight to college taking four Internet classes. With me helping her schedule her time, motivating her and keeping her on task, she was able to complete her courses successfully. After seeing the success, I encouraged several others to start with online courses. I also helped schedule their times, created calendars, and gave them reminder calls. This helped them become organized and self-confident. It is my strong opinion that students should be offered college level online courses while in high school under the supervision of a teacher, who solely encourages and helps keep organized. It works!

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Becky/ Teacher: After my daughter graduated from high school she went straight read more
  • mgozaydin / education technologist: Why still everbody talks about teaching, that is forcing somebody read more
  • Sandria Parsons, The Learning Network, site-based professional development, New Bedford Public Schoo: Middle school is "decision-making time." If we have not motivated read more
  • David Kopperud, California State SARB Chair: The School Attendance Review Boards (SARB)process was created by the read more
  • Karen Welsh: I have written on this subject. Those interested should read read more




Technorati search

» Blogs that link here