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Phoenix Schools Tackle Dropout Rate

The schools in the United States are considered to be “in crisis” due to the soaring student dropout rate. In his first State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush stated that the national dropout rate was 25 percent. A recent study conducted by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University puts the current national dropout rate at 25 to 30 percent. Additionally, it indicated that males have the highest dropout rate of 20 to 30 percent and are most likely “at risk” of not graduating from high school with a diploma. It is said that when a student drops out of school, he/she drops into the criminal justice system.

In 2002, the U. incarcerated its two millionth person. Of those in prison at the time, 82 percent were high school dropouts. Dropouts cost our economy billions of dollars each year, and not just from the cost of incarceration.

They are an undereducated work force that retards our economic and social development. Businesses cannot depend upon a large portion of graduating students to fill much-needed jobs, which translates to lost government tax revenues. State governments lose money through welfare payments, unemployment and crime prevention programs. Governments, from the president to the local level, have discovered that if they do not pay for programs to decrease the dropout rate now, they will pay much more in the future. According to the study, the dropout rates vary dramatically by location and racial/ethnic background. The state of Arizona was cited in the study as one of the five states with the lowest graduation rate for 18 year olds. Thus, Phoenix Schools, along with the Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Horne, have made dropout prevention a top priority. There are three types of dropouts: • Dropouts — students who stop coming to school, • Drop-In Dropouts — students who come to school but do nothing while they are there, and • Forced-Out Dropouts — students who were “counseled out” by school counselors and administrators. Phoenix Schools are addressing all three types of dropouts. Their initiatives are focused on engaging the students, rather than excluding them.

They know that programs alone will not change the dropout rate. Only people and relationships can make a difference. Phoenix schools work with businesses, community organizations and others to identify and develop effective strategies for keeping students in school. They are working to improve student academic success, believing that the high school renewal initiatives are directly linked to a decreased dropout rate. Phoenix schools are focusing on fixing the system, not the student. Every student in the state of Arizona must now pass three tests in order to graduate high school. The tests measure the students’ knowledge against required state standards. Phoenix schools are focusing on the students who do not meet the state required standards. They are tackling their needs by: • Addressing the students’ skill gaps through a state-funded tutoring program, • Providing the students with their own tutorial guides, customized to their individual needs, and • Using state-funded tutors, who are qualified to help the students learn the required skills in order to achieve a passing score on the standardized tests. Phoenix schools are committed to reducing the dropout rate in their schools.

Though it is a lengthy and ever changing process, they know the importance of their task. Phoenix schools know they have an obligation to the students and their parents, as well as the businesses and community to improve their dropout rates. More skilled and diploma-graduated students mean better-prepared adults and a better Phoenix.


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