Cutting the Drop-Out Rate: A Plan That Makes Sense

Here is an excerpt from an interesting story recently published in the New York Times by Winnie Hu: 


Governor Jon S. Corzine and state officials announced a yearlong multiagency initiative to boost the state’s graduation rates.  Called the New Jersey High School Graduation Campaign, it will be led not by the state’s Department of Education, but by the state attorney general’s office, with funds from businesses like Verizon and Prudential, among others . . . .


Wow!  Businesses getting involved in children’s educations!


. . . As Governor Corzine put it in a news release, “the aim is to ensure that kids are headed in the right direction and not falling into the trap of a life of crime. Staying in school is one of our best crime prevention tools, and it requires the collaborative efforts of all of us to make it happen.” . . .


A collaborative effort from everyone!


. . . New Jersey’s campaign is part of a national effort to reduce dropout rates by America’s Promise Alliance, a Washington-based children’s advocacy group founded by Colin L. Powell in 1997. Since April, the group has awarded grants of $25,000 to 14 states, including New Jersey and New York, to hold summits to develop communitywide plans for reducing dropout rates. The group’s goal is to have summits in all 50 states by 2010.


Communitywide plans!  Let me say it again: COMMUNITY!


Colleen Wilber, a spokeswoman for the alliance, said that dropouts are more than just a problem for schools, because those students are more likely to become a burden to society — ending up in jail, on welfare rolls or without any health insurance. According to the group’s research, dropouts from the class of 2007 will cost the nation more than $320 billion in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetime.


“We think that solving the dropout crisis is going to take the entire community,” she said. “Not only is it important to have the schools and the parents, but it’s also critically important for the business community, the faith community and the nonprofit groups to be there.”


Businesses!  The church!  Nonprofits!


Creighton Drury, an assistant attorney general who is overseeing the campaign, said that at least four regional meetings would be convened for school, community and business leaders to brainstorm about specific strategies for keeping students in school. For instance, he said, they will focus on reducing truancy by tapping into community resources to provide mentors or support programs, among other things.


Mr. Drury said the campaign would culminate in a statewide summit next October to promote the most effective practices, and to recommend educational policies to raise graduation rates. “We want to make sure that we’re getting input and ideas from everyone so that this can be a true community and comprehensive effort,” he said. “Raising awareness is the first step to addressing the problem.”


Raising awareness! A comprehensive effort!


William Firestone, an education professor at Rutgers University, said that community leaders could bring more financial resources to a school, run after-school programs that provide tutoring and develop skills, and promote stronger family ties. “There’s a lot of evidence that family support is critical to success in schools,” he said.


Evidence that family support is critical to success in schools!


No wonder New Jersey has one of the lowest drop-out rates in the nation (only 2 percent of the high school population dropped out in 2007 according to the NJ Dept. of Ed.).   Maybe Governor Corzine can give Margaret Spellings a call, and show her how it’s really done.


Sounds to me like Corzine and the state of NJ have their heads screwed on straight.  This is a breath of fresh air–a nice break from the typical teacher bashing that goes on so often in America.  Maybe Barack Obama will appoint Colin Powell as his Secretary of Education, and Powell can expand his Promise Alliance and continue to get communities more involved in children’s educations.