Raising graduation rates often means tracking and providing extra support to those students who are at risk of dropping out, District Administration reports. Districts with lower dropout rates sometimes have designated staff members that reach out to students right away if they stop showing up for class.
Intervention should occur as soon as possible, the article says. Often the absences are related to financial problems that can be fixed through social services. Also, adding an additional fifth year can ensure eventual graduation.
Tracking students’ grades and attendance as early as 9th grade allows districts to get a jump start on those students who are at risk of dropping out. Many believe that students start showing signs of dropping out after the transition from middle school.
Students at risk of dropping out have trouble planning for the future, struggle academically, have low attendance records and often have special needs. Language and literacy skills are factors, as well as the socioeconomic status of their family.
Providing multiple pathways to graduation can lower dropout rates. Alternative schools and online credit recovery courses give students more options to earn their diploma. But just assigning students that are behind to a credit recovery program alone might not address the other issues holding them back. A report released last fall by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute said that some of these programs are of "questionable quality" and that students also experiencing attendance issues or behavior problems might not benefit.
Career and technical education (CTE) programs can also contribute to higher student engagement, academic performance and graduation rates. In fact, the Association of Career and Technical Education says that 91% of high school graduates who earned two to three CTE credits enrolled in college. The average high school graduation rate for CTE students is 93%.
A combination of CTE and alternative programs can boost graduation rates more than 15%. Social-emotional learning programs and college preparation increase rates by 10%. There is also strong evidence that mentoring programs help students navigate high school so they can graduate with their class. Mentors are often designated teachers, counselors or administrators who check in on at-risk students on a daily or weekly basis. They don’t just help with school work, they also address any social or family issues students may be experiencing. Approximately 10% of all U.S. students receive some type of mentoring.