Recent Posts for Blog Editor

A primer on the words we use to describe people who have left high school before graduation

What’s in a word?

A new blog post from NPR’s Anya Kamenetz dives into the terms our society has used to describe young men and women who are of school age but aren’t enrolled in school.

In the post, Kamenetz discusses the history and baggage that comes with terms line “delinquent,” “dropout,” and “at-risk youth.”

For our part, long-time readers of this website might have noticed that we’ve recently steered clear of the word “dropout” to describe individual people, though we still use the term to describe an educational crisis facing our nation. For many of the reasons that Kamenetz discusses, “dropout” is simply a poor description of many of the students we have met over the years who left school before earning a high school diploma.

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Many children sacrifice their futures to help families in need

Households with adolescent workers tend to rely less on federal assistance programs than those with youth who aren’t in school and aren’t working.

That’s a key finding in a new analysis by the Urban Institute, which also found that working youth tend to be disproportionately male, Hispanic and first-generation immigrants.

In other words, by doing what our society broadly asks immigrants to do — taking care of themselves and their families so the government doesn’t have to — these individuals are sacrificing their own futures.

The average wage for these workers is $9,500 a year. But, at least in the short-term, that money is helping raise 42 percent of poor households over the poverty line. In about 10 percent of such cases, the working youth earns more than half of their family’s total income.

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When revolutionary changes they made turned out to be not enough, they started a new revolution

Yonkers Partners in Education seemed to be doing everything right.

Recognizing that few students and families from the working-class New York suburb had anywhere near the information and readiness they needed to get to college, the local organization set out to make a change.

It opened college and career centers in seven Yonkers high schools, then hired advisers to staff the centers and supplemented that effort with community volunteers.

It held regular college admissions test prep sessions, financial readiness seminars, and essay-writing workshops. It took Yonkers kids on bus tours of nearby colleges.

And, as journalist Lane Anderson wrote for The Deseret News National Edition today, the results were nothing short of impressive.

“In the 2013-2014 school year, Yonkers students made almost 30,000 visits to the YPIE college centers, and 95 percent of seniors used them,” Anderson wrote. “Scholarships secured by Yonkers students soared from $23 million in 2009 to more than $61 million in 2014. Over 60 percent of Yonkers high school grads enrolled in college within six months — most to Westchester Community College in nearby Valhalla.”

And then it came to light.

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To re-ignite more educations, we should listen to the stories

Think you can typecast people who didn't earn a diploma before leaving high school?

Think again.

And no matter if you're a long-time advocate of helping more Americans re-ignite their educations or if you're new to this fight, it's worth your time today to read the words of reporter Dennis Yohnka from The Daily Journal in Kankakee, Illinois:

Every classroom comes with stories. Each student, from kindergarten to college, brings a different set of experiences, special interests and specific hurdles that teachers have to accommodate.

Still, the GED classroom at Lafayette Primary School takes that diversity to a whole new level. The students in this new Kankakee School District 111 project range from 18 to 59. Some still recall some of the lessons learned in their aborted high school careers. For others, high school was only a matter of a few disjointed weeks of starts and stops.

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Systemic changes to dropout recovery fight requires long-term plans, early intervention

When school leaders met Thursday in Rockland, Maine, to discuss how to address the community’s dropout problem, they immediately locked onto an idea that many others ignore or dismiss.

“Pre-kindergarten will bring families into the culture of education earlier,” Oceanside High School West Principal William Gifford said, according to an article by The Bangor Daily News

That’s right: To address a problem facing the district today, Gifford and others are looking at making changes that won’t produce measurable outcomes, in terms of graduations, for 14 years.

Because early education initiatives are such long-term investments, they’re often passed over by district leaders looking for more immediate ways to increase graduation numbers.

That’s an unfortunate, though understandable, consequence of a world in which school leaders are expected to make quick gains in measurable educational outcomes. And if you consider that the average tenure of a public school superintendent is just three years, you can understand why an initiative that won’t show results until a successor’s successor’s successor’s successor comes around might not be high on the list of priorities.

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Nothing 'Magic' about 'no comment' — if you're going to serve at-risk kids, you have to be willing to engage

A recent investigative report from WBEZ and Catalyst Chicago paints an exceptionally poor picture of for-profit educational programs in Illinois aimed at getting students who have left school without a diploma back on track for graduation.

The article starts with a description of a speech that Earvin “Magic” Johnson delivered at the Global Silicon Valley Advisors conference last year. In that address, the former NBA great spoke at length about making money — and only passingly about what he was making it on: Alternative education in collaboration with a company called EdisonLearning.

The report makes various other allegations and offers plenty more innuendo. But the most devastating sentence, by far, was this one:

“No one from EdisonLearning or Magic Johnson Enterprises would agree to an interview.”

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The Centennial State might be a quarter-century away from national graduation goal

For the fifth straight year, Colorado’s graduation rates are up.

That’s the good news. But here’s the reality check: the extent of that growth hasn’t been tremendous. Between 2013 and 2014 the grad rate jumped by less than half a percent. And from 2009 to 2014, it rose all of 2.7 percent.

In a statewide school system with more than 850,000 students, even small rises are indicative of incredible individual successes. Each percentage point represents hundreds of students who might not have graduated on time in years past but are now.

But in terms of meeting the long-held national goal to reach 90 percent on-time graduation by 2020, Colorado’s chances don’t look good. If Colorado continued to raise its grad rates at the same pace it has, on average, over the past five years, it will take another quarter-century to hit the 90 percent mark.

Put another way: Colorado won’t reach that waypoint until some of the children of the class of 2015 are graduating from high school themselves.

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Wrestling with a persistent pig: Why we need to keep fighting tired notions about dropouts

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a tremendous change in public perception about individuals who leave high school before graduation.

Dropouts, it was once widely viewed (sometimes even among those who work closely with students) were lazy, unmotivated, unintelligent and unappreciative of the opportunities they have been given.

Today a far more nuanced and far more accurate view prevails, and that has a lot to do with a developing national consciousness about who dropouts are — tied at least in part to the examples we see in the social and traditional media.

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Listen to Mississippi: 100 percent graduation is the only acceptable goal

No wiggle room.

That's what Mississippi's Board of Education left itself — and everyone else in the Magnolia State — when it abandoned incremental goals toward improving academic outcomes in favor of a bold vision for the future.

Here's how The Associated Press' Jeff Amy put it: 

The previous goal of raising the state's graduation rate to 83 percent? Now officials want every student to graduate high school.

Forget trying to boost test scores to where 60 percent of all students score proficient or higher by 2016. Now, the aim is that all students will score at a proficient or higher level on every single state test.

And while Superintendent Carey Wright and others have been trying to round up enough money to incrementally expand Mississippi's recently created state preschool program, now the goal is to provide high quality preschool to every child.


And it’s about time — not just for Mississippi but for all of us.

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Early warning data is vital to getting more students to graduation, but caution must be taken to avoid collateral damage

There are roughly 70,000 sixth graders in the state of Wisconsin — and every one of them has been assigned a number.

Falling between 0 and 100 — and based on algorithms that take into account attributes like on-time academic performance and attendance — these numbers represent each child’s expected chances of finishing high school on time. Any student whose score comes in under 78.5 is flagged as “high risk.” When that happens, their names are highlighted in red in a database administered by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, according to a recent report from Marketplace’s Learning Curve.  

Here at NoDropouts, we’re big fans of data. Numbers aren’t a panacea, of course, but it’s not often that we find an educational problem that can’t at least be better understood with a hard look at the numbers. And better understanding often leads to better solutions.

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