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Ohio Board of Education Creates Task Force to Combat School Dropout

Michael Nutter

June 20, 2019

The Ohio Board of Education’s new task force plans to combat school dropout across the state, but it will require broad-based buy-in and ample resources to be effective.

The second week of June marked the first meeting of Ohio’s Dropout Prevention and Recovery workgroup, a new task force created under the state’s Board of Education. The workgroup is tasked with examining and preventing school dropout in Ohio, while also ensuring that re-entry and, eventually, graduation is possible for those who do drop out.

As board member John Hagan explains, “We’re looking specifically [at] whether or not the regulations that are in place fit with the law [and] fit with what works out best for these children.” After all, keeping students in school isn’t just a key component of a quality education — it’s the first ingredient in creating an educated citizenry.

For students who slip through the cracks, the consequences are lifelong. Not only do high school dropouts earn an average of $8,000 less per year than high school graduates; they also tend to have shorter life expectancies and worse health. On the macroeconomic level, just a six percent bump in the country’s graduation rate would result in a nationwide annual earnings increase of roughly $3.1 billion.

Getting students across the graduation stage should be a top priority in every state, and Ohio’s new task force is a positive sign that the state is taking the issue seriously. That said, the factors contributing to high school dropout rates are myriad, and improving graduation rates will require a consistent, extended effort.

Graduation Rates Are Climbing, but There’s Still Room for Improvement

According to GradNation, the national graduation rate has seen steady progress over the past few years. In 2011, five states reported graduation rates below 70 percent; by 2016, not a single state had a graduation rate below 71 percent. Additionally, though no state had a 90 percent graduation rate in 2011, both Iowa and New Jersey had reached the 90 percent threshold by 2016.

Ohio’s graduation rate hovers around 84 percent, roughly the same as the national average. However, nearly all of Ohio’s neighboring states — Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia — have graduation rates well above 85 percent. Continuously shifting graduation requirements and excessive college readiness examinations may be the cause of Ohio’s graduation rate stagnating over the past few years while other nearby states’ steadily improved. In any case, Ohio has some catching up to do.

Understanding Why Students Drop Out

Generally speaking, students drop out of high school for one of three reasons: they’re “pushed,” they’re “pulled,” or they “fall out.” A student is “pushed” out when adverse circumstances within their school environment cause them to drop out. Push factors can include poor grades, an inability to keep up with coursework, “mean” teachers, or disciplinary actions.

Conversely, a student who’s “pulled” out of school is driven to drop out by factors outside of school. These often have to do with the student’s home or family life — becoming pregnant, needing to support their family, or needing to get a job are all leading pull factors. Finally, students who “fall out” of school are those who begin to slip behind in grades or attendance. With little motivation to get back on track, these students choose to drop out instead.

Tackling high school dropout requires understanding these factors and taking a twofold approach that deals with both prevention and re-entry. The National Dropout Prevention Center specializes in the former, and names school-community collaboration, early childhood education, individualized instruction, and after-school opportunities as just a few of the tools that are effective at preventing dropout.

Dropout recovery, or the facilitation of re-entry for dropouts, requires an entirely different approach. The Student Engagement Project at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln identifies meaningful curricula, hassle-free enrollment, an engaging school climate, and computer-based instruction as a few of the ingredients in a successful recovery program.

A Partner in Dropout Prevention

It’s clear that lowering dropout rates is a time- and labor-intensive process that requires an immense amount of effort and funding. While certainly an encouraging development, Ohio’s new task force is just a first step. Ultimately, making meaningful progress toward achieving — and sustaining — higher graduation rates will require continuously fighting dropout at both the state and district levels.

To hold up their end of the bargain, district-level administrators need of an accurate, reliable EMIS reporting tool that will help them gain access to the resources they need. Contact us today to learn how Vinson’s CheckPoint EMIS Platform can help your district secure the funding it needs to maximize the number of diplomas you hand out each year.

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