This is a resource guide that synthesizes what has been learned over the past decade about keeping students on the graduation path. It highlights the importance of four key transition points
- the early years of schooling,
- the transition to the middle grades,
- the transition to high school, and
- the transition to college and careers.
It argues that students who successfully negotiate these transitions typically go on to graduate from high school. It demonstrates how many students may need academic and social supports to successfully negotiate these transitions and provides communities with insight into what these supports are and how they can be provided.
What Your Community Can Do was written for the National Dropout Summit held in Washington DC in May of 2007.
Many communities in the United States face a silent epidemic-year after year, one third to half or more of the primarily low-income and minority students they educate in their public school systems fail to graduate from high school. Decades ago, this would not have been a crisis. Factory jobs provided an avenue for employment and upward mobility for young adults without high school degrees. Today, the unemployment rate for young adults without a high school diploma is staggering. As a result, failure to graduate from high school has become a ticket to the underclass. For a single individual this can be tragic, but when the majority or near majority of students from entire neighborhoods and communities fail to graduate, the social and economic costs are profound and far reaching.
It does not have to be this way. We know enough about who dropouts are, why they drop out and how to prevent it to help communities confront and stop their dropout crisis. Over a decade’s worth of research, development and direct action confronting the dropout crisis indicates that, while it will not be easy, quick or cost-free, this is a crisis that can alleviated by a combination of effort and policy. Moreover, it is worth doing. Pick your issue – improving the economic vitality of your community, cutting its crime rate, reducing its social welfare costs, expanding its middle class, reducing concentrated poverty, or achieving social justice – stopping the dropout crisis in your community is a means to achieve it.
The following is offered as roadmap or practical advice on how to begin. Like all advice it should be taken with a grain of salt. Each community is different and I can only report on what I have read and learned, so this knowledge and experience must be integrated with local facts and the characteristics of each community. The advice is based on what is known at the national level about the nature of the dropout crisis and how it
can be prevented, experience over the past decade working with middle and high schools that serve low-income students in more than 30 communities to implement the Talent Development Middle and High School whole school reform models, and operation of the Baltimore Talent Development High School, an Innovation High School in the heart of one of the highest poverty neighborhoods in America.
Read the full report, available here in pdf.