Update on the dropout rate

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4.Lack of support for students who need extra help: Breakfast programs, homework helpers, tutoring, and Big Brother/Big Sister programs are among the ways that can bridge the gap. I’ll add a few new ones to the mix such as groups for children of divorce, children or alcoholic parents, and gay, lesbian, and transgender youth. Unfortunately, with the economic downturn, such interventions were the first to be cut.

5.The family’s finances: This is one of the toughest nuts to crack and there are no easy solutions. Education is secondary to survival. Students are forced to drop out of high school to get jobs or stay home to take care of younger siblings so parents can work. Some forward-thinking districts provide everything from child care to off-hours classes for students who want that elusive diploma.

6.One size doesn’t fit all: Sadly, many students drop out because of boredom. Heretofore, the college prep, academic course was the only game in town, with very few other options. Today, alternate schools are proliferating. In addition, more off-campus vocational education opportunities are available, although they’re often expensive for school districts to access. Bottom line: There has to be more than one way to earn a diploma.

7.Other options: I don’t buy this “excuse”: Encouraging students to enter the military or world of work is premature. Before considering these alternatives, we need to make sure that all the other obstacles to staying in school have been eliminated.

8.Drugs and alcohol:Little has changed since this list of reasons first appeared. Making prevention and treatment programs accessible should be a priority. Expensive-- but no more so than the cost of students dropping out and becoming addicts.

9.Illness: There are children who lack adequate health care. Sometimes a family member requires home care, necessitating students to run the household at an early age. Much has changed since this reason first appeared on the list, given the current health care debate. At least this issue has entered the national dialogue.

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