California’s dropout rate declined to less than 4% last year, meaning more students are finishing high school. Yet every year 58,000 youngsters still quit the classroom before receiving a diploma, their passport to future jobs.
The reasons for dropping out are many: poor academic performance, poverty, pregnancy, family moves and failure to form a strong bond with a teacher or any other adult on campus.
Teachers can’t fix societal problems, but school districts can take steps to encourage students to stay in school.
The Los Angeles Unified School District achieved a 13% improvement, the first significant gain in three years. The district’s drop from a 10.7% rate to 9.3% indicates something is working here, though the new figure still is above the state average.
High scholastic achievement and high expectations, the earlier the better, lead to students staying in school, teachers say. The hard work must begin in the primary grades; experts find that many pupils who fall below grade level in the third grade never catch up. In seeking to help elementary school students who are not progressing properly, the LAUSD will soon offer limited elementary summer school, which the state does not fund.
Strict attendance policies also are beneficial; under them, children get into the habit of regular attendance. Many school districts evaluate administrators on the basis of attendance, often a good indication of whether a campus is well-run and disciplined.
Parents need to insist that their children go to school--no excuses, no blaming of teachers or anyone else. Graduation should be the goal of every student, and the welcome decline of the dropout rate holds promise of success.