Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Legislature and high school dropouts

Yesterday's report on SB 1209 was picked up by the California Progress Report.
Today: Dropout deluge alarms officials!
Bills target state problem by increasing early help and limiting outside jobs to C-average teens.
By Laurel Rosenhall - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PST Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Could preventing a high school student from holding a job if he doesn't have good grades keep him from dropping out? Would offering a struggling middle schooler extra counseling and after-school programs keep her on the path to graduation? What about giving high school students more access to college-prep classes and high-level career training? Could that stop them from leaving before they earn a diploma?
The Legislature will debate those questions over the next two years as it takes on a package of bills designed to get at what many consider a crisis in California's education system: the throngs of students who drop out.
Exactly how many leave high school without a diploma has been hard to pin down because the state's student identification system is not complete. Recent research suggests that it's about 30 percent of each class -- or roughly 150,000 students a year.
"Why are we allowing this to continue?" asks Sen. Darrell Steinberg.
The Sacramento Democrat known for tackling complex social issues and building consensus among colleagues has turned his attention to high school.
"Issues cry out to you as needing attention, and this is at the top of my list. It affects children, families, schools, communities and has major economic consequences for the state," Steinberg said.
"We need to make a systemic commitment to eliminating this high school dropout rate."

….She also found support at school. Reyes switched from River City to McClatchy High School, where she formed a close relationship with a teacher. She joined a program for at-risk students that stresses values such as courtesy, integrity and perseverance.
Reyes told the select committee that lawmakers should fund similar efforts to stem the flow of dropouts. She also said they should consider more training for teachers in how to communicate with teenagers, more English-language support for immigrant students and more college-prep classes for everyone.
Increasing the availability of college-prep classes is one proposal among the five bills Steinberg is pushing as part of his dropout prevention agenda. Fewer than half of California high schools now offer enough college-prep classes to allow all students to participate in the curriculum, according to UCLA researchers..."
Senator Darrel Steinberg makes an important attempt here. The failure to deal with dropouts is a serious problem of schools. The next question is will the proposed programs help? Past efforts by the legislature do not give a great deal of confidence.
One piece of legislation which did help was to provide funds for teacher-parent home visits sponsored by Area Churches Together. Building relationships works. Relationships also work on the drop out rate. The legislature could provide the resources to provide teachers with the time to build relationships rather than to drill for tests.
Building relationships takes time and mony. It is unclear of Steinberg's proposals will deal with the real issues of high school dropouts.
Duane Campbell
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