Making a Difference - Ways To Lower Drop Out Rates

While dropout rates in America have been on a slow, but steady decline, kids leaving school is having devastating effects on our schools and our communities. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the high school dropout rate in 2001 (the most recent year for which data is available) was nearly 11 percent, with that rate even higher among minority youth. This high rate of dropouts across America has been shown to negatively affect our schools' ability to provide adequate education programs. It also impacts our communities negatively, especially when you consider what can happen when these kids are not in school.

So what can a parent, teacher, community leader or school administrator do to make sure the schools in their community don't contribute to this high national dropout rate? Leslie McCarley, services director for No Disposable Kids, says there's a lot you can do. "With thousands of high school dropouts and expelled kids in our nation, society needs to be concerned about preventing situations that become unsafe for them and for others," says McCarley. "We can stop the trend with well-trained teachers, school staff and community members willing to capture and re-capture the academic interests of wayward youth."

Many schools across the country have stepped up to the plate to combat expulsion and dropout rates, under the realization that these statistics affect both a child's and a school's ability to succeed. At Whitehall Schools, in Ohio, the district realized it had a problem. Educators, administrators and parents knew that there were too many disruptive, non-achieving and at risk students being lost to suspensions and expulsions. In fact, in just one year, the district faced a devastating statistic of 353 suspensions in one year. That added up to 1,622 lost days (not to mention lost revenue) which led administrators to try some radically different approaches, one of which was No Disposable Kids.]

The No Disposable Kids program, commonly referred to as NDK, came to Whitehall Schools and taught the district early intervention strategies for handling difficult students. The program uses the time-tested approaches of its parent organization, Starr Commonwealth, which has provided troubled youth with strength based tools to turn their lives around for more than 90 years. NDK taught staff, administrators and teachersâ?¦anyone working with students, how to de-escalate crisis situations, create a safe and predictable school environment and learn management skills that promote positive student behavior.

"We are in our third year delivering NDK training to Whitehall Schools," says NDK trainer Randy Copas. "In that time, dropout and expulsion rates have plummeted to zero and the district has a graduation rate of 90 percent. I had one building principal share with me that his 'principal referrals' had gone down from over 270 one year to 70 the next year after having only one school counselor trained. On top of that, test scores in reading, math and science have improved dramatically district wide."

"The difference is that all students are treated fairly with the respect they deserve, regardless of what their background is," adds Copas. "When students feel they are treated fairly, they are more apt to listen and learn from adult guidance. When applied appropriately, the NDK philosophy creates an environment where all students can thrive."

At the start of the 2004-2006 school year, No Disposable Kids launched school training at Kalamazoo Public Schools in Michigan. School administrators were concerned about how to develop pro-social discipline strategies that maintain students in the classroom, resolved issues respectfully, and minimized the use of punitive measures to address inappropriate behaviors. After receiving a grant from the Stryker-Johnston Foundation, Kalamazoo Schools enlisted the help of NDK began their work. While the training is still in its beginning stages, it has already proven to make a difference through results that benefit children. "Many teachers and school staff are already embracing the training," says McCarley. "The concept is that positive relationships must be developed with students if they are to advance in their academics. NDK is designed to reverse the trend of expulsions and dropout rates, approaching all children as having value, while simultaneously drawing down school costs and providing taxpayers with some relief."

Courtesy of ARA Content