While government agencies and school administrators focus on standards, AYP, accountability, and other urgent issues in education, an oft-overlooked segment of students is receiving some welcome attention. The proposed federal budget for 2010 has assigned $50 million to be used for dropout prevention. The stimulus package includes $3.5 billion to help turn around low-performing schools, and presumably a portion of that will also be earmarked to help lower the dropout rate. According to current estimates, some 1.2 million students drop out of school each year–equivalent to 7,000 students a day.

A recent report from the National Association of State Board Educators includes these recommendations for addressing the dropout issue:

  • Promote community partnerships to encourage student retention.
  • Develop a comprehensive student data system that can help identify potential dropouts.
  • Deliver the needed training to schools and districts to help them foster effective partnerships and dropout prevention plans.
  • Create multiple pathways to graduation.

The second item regarding identifying potential dropouts struck me as quite interesting. The state of Louisiana has an exemplary program called DEWS: Dropout Early Warning System, that tracks indicators such as high absentee rate; GPAs under 1.0, a sudden half-point drop in a student’s GPA; and if a student is older than the typical age for that grade level. Once major publisher offers a software program that tracks this type of student data, flags potential dropouts, and helps teachers and administrators prevent these at-risk students from dropping out.

These programs – and the dedicated teachers and administrators who implement them – can help throw out a safety net for these kids before they fall through society’s cracks. Bravo to all for these efforts.