During the time it will take you to read this blog post, more than 35 students will drop out of high school. This back-of-the-napkin estimate is based on my assumption that you have faster than average reading skills, and on the cold, hard truth that approximately 18,000 students drop out of high school every day.
Not only is this a tragedy for these students on a personal level, but over the course of their lives dropouts on average cost taxpayers $292,000. Thankfully, there is a way to avoid these costs. Dropout recovery programs are not only proven to be effective at increasing graduation rates, but a good program will provide further support to reverse the negative financial impact and ensure students begin to move on a path to a brighter future.
The hardest part of any dropout recovery program is reaching dropouts and persuading them to continue their education. It is an uphill battle that often involves correcting inaccurate contact information, partnering with migrant agencies, and breaking negative associations with school. The most effective programs not only provide incentives for re-enrollment but also for referrals, expanding the reach to students who may be otherwise unreachable.
The reasons students have for dropping out are numerous and complex. Recovery programs should always be tailored to the student, even if that means educating the student outside of school walls, perhaps on a digital campus that offers classes convenient to their schedule and learning speed. Such technology is not only a motivating incentive to re-enroll, it also creates an effective way to communicate with hard to reach students.
Path to Graduation
The issues that lead to a student dropping out the first time don’t magically disappear upon re-enrollment. Effective programs analyze and evaluate the obstacles students continue to face through graduation and beyond. Support programs—both academic and social—following re-enrollment ensure that students remain involved and invested in their education through graduation. Creating a customized plan for each student keeps them on the path to graduation while accommodating factors that would otherwise throw them off-course.
While flexibility is one key to success, dropout recovery programs need to hold students to high academic and personal standards. Attaining a GED may seem like an equivalent alternative to graduation, but research shows that dropouts who earn a GED rather than a high school diploma are far less likely to continue their education with high school level classes or to enroll in college, thereby limiting their own potential as adults, as well as their positive impact on the economy.
The ultimate goal of a recovery program is not simply a diploma, but to ensure that graduates have earned an education that provides them with a path to a better life. For most, that better life either means starting a career or continuing their education through college. At minimum, a recovery program should include formal planning for graduates’ futures. What post-graduation goals do they have related to their career, salary, or lifestyle? What do they need to do to reach those goals? This latter question is key, as although most students have specific goals, few understand the specific steps needed to achieve them.
While dropout recovery programs are often perceived to be expensive investments, they are well worth the cost and some programs, such as ours at Graduation Alliance, don’t include any upfront costs at all. Every student who recovers thanks to a dropout recovery program is changed from a burden on the economy to a contributing member of society.