The following is a response to Learning Matters' forum question, "How do we best prevent dropouts?"
Every year, another 1.2 million students drop out of high school. These students too often are concentrated in low-performing, high-poverty schools that fail to graduate them or prepare them for further education or careers.
A growing number of educational innovators are developing new Back on Track Through College schools and programs that not only graduate off-track students and young people who have dropped out of school altogether, but help to put them on a pathway to postsecondary education. What these schools have taught us about how to reengage young people can be applied to improve all our schools.
It is important to combine the academic acceleration and delivery efficiencies of secondary-postsecondary partnerships—found in early college high schools and in college bridge programming—with the deep academic and social support, and youth development and leadership practices, found in the best alternative schools. Through postsecondary partnerships, schools can help students gain exposure to the demands of college and even earn some college credits while they still have support—powerful motivators to continue school.
To support academic success, we must offer students a more engaging learning experience in which substantial reading, writing, and inquiry take place daily across the curriculum, and students take advantage of next-generation digital learning tools. Coursework aligned to college readiness must be scaffolded through collaborative group work and other strategies that enable students of diverse skill levels to support one another.
In addition, we need to give young people better guidance into postsecondary programs that lead to high-wage, high-demand jobs in the regional labor market—so that they see transparent paths leading from school to high-quality employment. And, throughout, we must keep a closer watch on the warning signals of student disengagement, systemically monitoring failing grades, poor attendance, and other warning signs most closely linked with dropping out.
We can take what is working in the best of our dropout recovery programs and embed these strategies into mainstream schooling. The result would be a smoother transition from secondary to postsecondary, a more effective delivery of academic and social supports, a more intentional matching of students to the right postsecondary programs, and a far greater likelihood that students will succeed.
Read all responses to Learning Matters' blog forum question ("How do we best prevent dropouts?") HERE.