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Report Shines New Light on CT's "Invisible Students"

December 20, 2011

HARTFORD, Conn. - Some 5,000 Connecticut high school pupils have been pushed out of school and into adult-education classes, according to a new report, and many fall into what is known as the "school-to-prison pipeline."

Report author Laura McCargar, a Soros Fellow at A Better Way Foundation in Hartford, explains how this came to be.

"There are thousands of teens across the state of Connecticut who have left mainstream high school not so much as a result of their choice, but because they have been counseled, coerced, or otherwise forced to, essentially, leave high school."

She says some of those young people are assigned to so-called "alternative" schools and that, while some of those schools are good, many are considered dumping grounds for nontraditional pupils that lead to them dropping out of school entirely.

McCargar, who heads the Pushout Research and Organizing Project, says Connecticut is doing more than many other states to reduce the flow of students into that "school-to-prison pipeline."

"That involves looking at school-based arrests, the use of zero-tolerance and exclusionary discipline, disciplinary measures that have the effect of taking students out of the classroom and leaving them often in unstructured, unsupervised environments, at home or on the street."

She adds that more needs to be done at both the state and school district level.

McCargar notes that some students as young as age 16 who fall behind in their school course credits are being told they're "too old" to stay in school, and are pushed into adult education programs, which don't provide special education or transportation, making attendance a challenge. She adds that there's another drawback to adult ed:

"Students who enroll in the credit diploma program at adult education receive two-thirds less time per credit earned than students in mainstream high schools do, based on state law and mandates."

She says in 2010, only one in four of those pupils earned their diplomas or GED certificates within a year.

The report, "Invisible Students: The Role of Alternative and Adult Education in the Connecticut School-to-Prison Pipeline," is at ctprop.org

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT