One in Three is One too many

In last evening's State of the Union speech, President Obama was very firm in his belief that education has to be made a priority if we are going to succeed as a Nation. He emphatically urged states to no longer permit students to drop out of school and for colleges to make higher education fiscally attainable.

Unfortunately Kentucky still has a legal drop out age of 16. For the last three years legislation to change this has been tossed around from the House to the Senate, but falling short every time. The argument against has always been that our at-risk students would cause more problems in our schools if they were encouraged to stay and complete their course work in order to walk across a stage and collect a diploma (Ed.gov Blog). It is the "if they don't want to be there we shouldn't force them to stay" argument that causes me great concern. Currently Kentucky has a state wide graduation rate of 76.68%. In Jefferson County, the graduation rate is 69.27%. In the last seven years, 34.3% of high school students from JCPS have dropped out. That is 1 student out of every 3. 1 in 3. According to a report by Henry Levin on  CNBC,every high school drop out costs the economy $750,000. And it isn't just the fiscal cost of dropping out. We often neglect the social and emotional costs of dropping out. Of being left behind one's peers and labelled a failure by society at large.

I've written about this before. In a 2010 study commissioned by 55,0000 Degrees as part of their goal to help support a college going culture. In this study where students and adults were interviewed, 98% of the students interviewed PLAN on going to college, and 96.30% of students believe that college is important. As indicated above, however, only 69.27% of our students are graduating. Somewhere along the way a disconnect has occurred. We need to start addressing this disconnect and we need to not make leaving school at sixteen an option.

Currently there is legislation pending, yet again, to change this in Kentucky:

In Kentucky we still legally permit students to drop out at age 16. There are currently two pieces of pending legislation: SB (senate bill) 52 and HB (House bill) 216:

SB 52: AN ACT relating to compulsory school age. 
Amend KRS 159.010 to provide that effective July 1, 2016, compulsory school attendance shall be between the ages of six and seventeen; provide that effective July 1, 2017, compulsory school attendance shall be between the ages of six and eighteen; until July 1, 2017, permit parents to withdraw from school a child under the age of eighteen, under certain conditions; amend KRS 159.020 to conform.

(Prefiled by the sponsor(s).)

Jan 3-introduced in Senate; to Education (S)

HB 216 AN ACT relating to school dropout prevention.
Amend KRS 159.010 to require compulsory attendance for children ages 6 to 17 by July 1, 2016, and for children ages 6 to 18 by July 1, 2017, delete counseling provision, make technical corrections; amend KRS 159.020 to conform.

Jan 5-introduced in House
Jan 9-to Education (H)

Call the LRC 1-800-372-7181 to leave a message with the Jefferson Co. Contingent. Let them know you support this legislation. 

I am optimistic that this will be the session in which this legislation passes. Not just because the President urged states to take a hard look at this, but because Kentucky has taken the lead in education reform (with the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, teacher evaluations, new measures of assessments). There  are also many other groups discussing the State of the Union (ED WeekAll4EdASCD) and how we must be more proactive in preventing our students from walking away from education. Americas Promise's annual Building of a Grad Nation Summit is quickly approaching. We must continue to work together to make sure that all our children are college and career ready. The first step for Kentucky is passing this legislation. The next step is to recognize that the momentum for a student to drop out actually begins as early as kindergarten. Students and families make the decision to stop caring about education by the fourth grade. We know that student's whose families are in crisis need stronger supports, not just from their school, but from their community at large. We must educate families about the importance of graduating from high school when their children are in pre-school. Our students and families deserve every opportunity in order to achieve success. 

1 in 3 students dropping out is 1 too many. 

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