Raising the dropout age simply won’t solve the problem

Legislatures around the country are discussing raising the dropout age in their states as a way to stem the dropout tide.

In Kentucky, a poll by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky of 1,000 parents showed that 85 percent favored raising the dropout age from 16 with parental permission to 18, a move Gov. Steve Beshear supports, according to a report on WFPL public radio.

However, age has nothing to do with why students drop out.

They leave school behind because they are raising families, having to earn full-time wages, fleeing bullies and gangs or feeling so far behind they’ll never catch up. Kids don’t simply wake up at age 16 and decide it’s time to stop attending class.

What students need is flexibility and accessibility to their education. They need schedules that accommodate work or online courses that allow them to work at their own pace. They need mentors to help them feel connected to school. They need a caring adult in their life that can help with transportation, housing and food.

Keeping kids in class who don’t want to be there simply won’t solve the problem. The worry about a ticket or fine for not being in class won’t solve the issues they face.

It would be great if no kid dropped out of school. But making that happen won’t come from an older dropout age. It will come from innovative programs and a better understanding of what kids need to complete their education.