December 2010

Why don't black churches start their own schools?

The inestimable RiShawn Biddle is asking a poignant and provocative question at Dropout Nation this week: Why don't black churches start their own schools?

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Challenge Academy is saving lives

If you had asked Paul Smith a few months ago what the future held for his stepson, Elijah Rice, he would have responded, “Jail.”

But not anymore. Smith, of Springfield, now proudly says that the 17-year-old will be heading to Lincoln Land Community College soon to prepare for a career as an electrician.

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Birmingham ends contract with dropout recovery group

The Birmingham City School District has ended its contract with a dropout recovery organization in the midst of allegations that the organization reneged on agreements with another dropout prevention group and had failed to pay its employees.

The program began just three months ago with high hopes and excited support from the district. Superintendent Craig Witherspoon called the J. Vincent Group's "Excelsior Program" one way to "provide more diverse learning opportunities for students."

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What would you do to solve the dropout crisis?

The Times-Herald of Vallejo, Calif., is taking a novel approach to the dropout crisis: It has asked its Facebook fans to suggest solutions to the city's nearly 50-percent dropout rate. 

The answers run the gamut, but a few themes emerge:

Safety

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"All hands on deck" needed to fight dropout crisis

The U.S. graduation rate has increased slightly, from 72 percent in 2002 to 75 percent in 2008. Meanwhile, the number of “dropout factory” high schools — which account for about half of all high school dropouts — fell from 2,007 in 2002 to 1,746 in 2008, according to a new report by the America’s Promise Alliance.

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Are internet filters locking students out of learning?

Could rules governing the use of the internet on school computers be contributing to an atmosphere that promotes dropouts?

John Lock thinks so.

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"Dead, in jail or on drugs" is no choice at all

Craig Zeno grew up in public housing in southeast Houston believing he had three options in life.

"I was told I was either going to be dead, in jail or on drugs," Zeno told the Houston Chronicle. "I didn't want that."

So, he fought for more. Today, Zeno's job is to inspire struggling high school students with his own story of perseverance. And the students he supports are proving that they've got more than three options, too.

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Can Glee Club reduce the dropout rate?

It's 8 a.m., and Mission High School choir director Steven Hankle is about to start class. Soul and hip-hop tunes play softly in the background while students trickle in. A young Latina girl pulls her friend up from the chair, and the two dance for a few minutes; an African American girl sings along. Sandwiched between two pianos, the 29-year-old teacher is writing out a holiday concert rehearsal schedule: "Deck the Halls," "This Christmas," a Latin remake of "Stand by Me" and "La Bamba."

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Before they can hope to graduate, students must have basic needs met

During the first days Landis Brewer spent homeless, he maintained a facade of suburban comfort at South County High School, where the all-district running back with the easy smile was the image of teenage aplomb. But when Brewer left campus, that veneer disappeared.

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