Although most children in the United States attend school through the middle grades, a disturbing number of students do not complete high school. In Indiana, it is estimated that more than 20,000 students (1 out of 5) do not graduate each year.
Without a high school diploma, students are left with few options and minimal opportunities for the future. When students drop out the consequences extend far beyond the individual. Over 25 to 30 years, a dropout student can cost a community as much as $500,000 in public assistance, health care, and incarceration costs. Conversely, a high school diploma can add nearly $500,000 in earning potential during a worker's career.
We no longer can afford the huge cost that high school dropouts have become to our society. Without citizens that have mastered even basic level skills, Indiana cannot compete in a modern, knowledge-based economy.
Schools must have safeguards in place to keep students from falling behind in their academic coursework, becoming discouraged with their lack of progress, and leaving school prior to graduation. Parents must be engaged and informed of the adverse effects associated with students foregoing their education. Targeted, sustained support must be readily available to students that need additional assistance.
Many student dropouts will not return to the school in which they were not successful. To provide these individuals with the help they need to succeed, linkages with effective adult education programs located at local community colleges, community centers, worksites, or alternative high schools must be made.
Next Steps to Improve Student Achievement:
- 1. Improve academic foundation skills through rigorous curriculum, differentiated instruction, and early intervention programs that ensure the gaps in achievement between poor and affluent children do not develop.
- Recognize that dropout prevention strategies must begin in students' early years, as outlined in Early Learning and School Readiness and Eliminating the Achievement Gap.
- Develop mentoring programs for students at-risk of failing
- Establish rigorous academic alternative programs.
- Provide flexibility to coordinate school, work, and family responsibilities.
- Decrease barriers to learning such as child care, health issues, and transportation.
- Report chronic absenteeism beginning with elementary school students.
- Help schools track, analyze, and use chronic absenteeism, truancy, and dropout trend information to implement prevention and intervention strategies.
- Provide schools with financial incentives to reduce chronic absenteeism and dropouts.
- Implement financial policies to ensure that low-income (high dropout) school districts have sufficient resources, including appropriate technology tools, to mount challenging innovative alternative approaches and appropriate support services.
- Encourage and enable school partnerships with the judicial system, division of family and social services and other community-based organizations to identify and implement interventions to keep students in school.
- Make suspensions and expulsions unappealing to students.
- Ensure educational services continue for students suspended or expelled.
- Require out-of-school suspensions and expulsions to be at a school setting or an alternative location with educational services provided.
- Raise the dropout age to 18.
- Review curfew laws and implementation as they pertain to students who are suspended, expelled or have dropped-out of school to ensure they are aligned to support student learning.
- Review student work permit laws and implementation to ensure they are aligned to support student learning.
- Review drivers license laws and implementation as they pertain to students who are suspended, expelled or have dropped-out of school to ensure they are aligned to support student learning.