Diploma Dilemma: Keeping kids in school

September 21, 2010 2:35:18 PM PDT
Preventing dropouts is a battle educators face, and according to a new report, 8th grade may be the key year to keeping students in school.

April Rodriguez faced what experts call severe challenges to gaining a Regents High School Diploma, so she dropped out of school.

"Because I was having problems at home, so I wasn't motivated and I dropped out," she said.

"Without a radical intervention at this point, we're going to have tons of kids that aren't going to graduate," Helaine Doran, C.F.E. Deputy Director, said.

In a new report called Diploma Dilemma, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity studied the chances for challenged students to graduate from high school.

The study found that graduation rate comparisons are very different among schools with low achieving ninth graders. Regents diplomas ranged from zero to 83 percent at those schools. Attendance was a huge factor. Low achieving students missed 27 more days of school.

"I really needed help and none was helping me, so I figured why stay in school," program participant Oscar Rojas said.

Rojas, like April, is working on his G.E.D. at The Door, a successful youth development program.

The C.F.E. Study found that admissions policies, which determine which students go to the better schools, have increased academic imbalance.

"It's time now to kind of re-look at the question of how you deal with the lowest performing kids, because otherwise, we're writing them off - not just for high schools. We're really writing them off," executive director Geri Palast said.

The C.F.E. report includes the strong recommendation that education officials take a close look at the practices of the schools with high graduation rates, in spite of the fact that they have such 'challenged' students.