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Dropout Report: One Size Does Not Fit All

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 By Jim Wishner/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - MI, Contact
October 20, 2008

Lansing, MI – The report card is in on how to address Michigan's 15 percent high-school dropout rate. The Michigan Education Association and several other groups have been hosting hearings around the state to learn why some 21,000 students each year fail to earn a diploma, and to get suggestions about what to do about it.

MEA communications director Doug Pratt says a key conclusion is that just one approach won't work for all students.

"We need to make sure that they're getting the individualized attention they need, and that can take many forms. For some students, it's an alternative education setting. For some, it's finding ways of teaching that are relevant to their interests."

He says students also need role models and meaningful relationships with their parents, teachers and others who can encourage them to stay in school.

This isn't just a high school problem, Pratt adds. Dropout prevention has to start much earlier, he says, by making sure kids come to school ready to learn, and with the support they need to succeed.

"It's something we need to address from early childhood on through, and that's why we need communities, both in and out of school, to work together toward the common goal of reducing the dropout crisis."

Pratt says the consequences of kids of dropping out go well beyond the school years.

"You're talking about a lifetime of having trouble finding good employment, affordable housing and health care. Dropouts are more likely to commit crimes, and they are more likely in turn to have children who drop out of school as well, and continue the cycle."

The report is intended to jump-start community conversations about problems like these, Pratt adds. More than 500 people provided testimony at 11 hearings held statewide. Their insights will provide a valuable guideline for schools, communities and the state in their efforts to prevent dropouts, Pratt says.

More information is at www.mea.org/dropouts

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