The California Legislature has declared June 4-10 to be Dropout Recovery Week in support of dropout recovery high schools.
Assembly Concurrent Resolution 134 aims to “honor schools and their staffs who work to reengage pupils who have previously dropped out of school, and to honor the pupils who have overcome significant personal challenges to reengage in high school and become transformed learners who will continue to pursue education to prepare for college and career in their futures.”
A 2011 survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found that strong majorities of public school parents and adults across political parties, regions and demographic groups view the dropout rate as a big problem.
Research by the Alliance for Excellent Education demonstrates that if only one-half of the dropouts were recovered in California, the economic benefits to the state would be staggering.
ACR 134 notes that reengaged learners demonstrate higher civic engagement to the cultural strengths of their communities, and are significantly less likely to be unemployed, on public assistance or arrested for a violent crime.
The High School Recovery Week resolution opines that dropout recovery high schools provide significant social, economic and academic benefits to their pupils and California as a whole. It further encourages the support of creative teaching strategies, alternative assessments and adequate resources.
ACSA remains supportive of opportunities to implement school level reform and creative models of delivering instructional programs, including charters.
The association believes the primary goal of charter schools must be to improve student performance. However, there remains a need for accountability to ensure first and foremost that students are learning and that public money is being spent appropriately.
The Reaching At-Promise Students Association and School for Integrated Academies & Technologies are encouraging districts, schools, business and communities to celebrate Dropout Recovery Week.
“Increasingly educators, researchers, legislators and the federal government are recognizing the importance of dropout recovery as a solution to the crisis in education and the economy,” said Ernie Silva, director of external affairs for SIATech, a public reengagement charter school with campuses nationwide. “Most importantly, without focus on dropout recovery, we cannot provide an equal educational opportunity for all Californians.”
The National Governor’s Association has supported research on the dropout crisis and specifically dropout recovery. NGA researcher Ryan Reyna identified the importance of states focusing resources on dropout recovery.
“Despite considerable state progress in addressing dropout prevention, few state efforts exist to reengage dropouts and get them back on track to graduation,” Reyna said. “States have largely focused on dropout prevention because it is easier and cheaper to prevent a student from leaving school than to bring a dropout back to school. Yet, no matter how effective a state‘s dropout prevention efforts, students invariably fall through the cracks. Consequently, states need to build robust policies and programs that provide on-ramps back to school for dropouts wanting to obtain a high school diploma.”
Like other states, California’s focus has been on preventing students at risk of dropping out from doing so. Measures have been adopted to provide preschool for potentially at risk students, to improve data collection, to discourage transfers that increase graduation rates, and other measures.
California has also adopted a few measures to encourage dropout recovery. In 2006 California exempted dropout recovery schools from including graduation rates in the Academic Performance Index. In 2009, the California Department of Education was authorized to provide unique data reporting for dropout recovery schools.
In 2011, the state Legislature authorized some dropout recovery schools to utilize an individual pupil growth model in lieu of traditional status-based cohort accountability measures.
Data collection issues and a lack of adequate funding have precluded some policies from being fully realized.
RAPSA and SIATech are collecting information about how school communities are celebrating Dropout Recovery Week. Visit www.rapsa.org or www.siatech.org.