An old man walked along a shore littered with thousands of starfish, beached
and dying after a storm.
A young girl was picking them up and flinging them back into the ocean. “Why do you bother?” the old man asked. “You’re not saving enough to make a difference.”
The young girl picked up another starfish, sent it spinning back to the water and said, “It made a difference to that one.”
Photo Source: Matt Cardy/Getty Images Europe
I don’t think so.
We want our students to be turned on by school. We want them to tune in to their teachers and the holistic experience that our schools have to offer in Gloucester. What we certainly don’t want is for them to drop out out.
Our 16-year-old high school students can’t legally drink, smoke, buy a lottery ticket, join the military, vote, or sign a contract, but in Massachusetts, they are allowed to drop out of school without their parents’ consent.
For some of our leaders in Massachusetts, including Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Boston Democrat and co-chair of the Joint Committee on Education, this doesn’t make sense.
Chang-Diaz proposes S. 185, An Act to Prevent Students from Dropping Out of School. This bill would increase the mandatory high school attendance age from 16 to 18. Chang-Diaz’s bill also includes the use of an early warning system that would alert school administrators when a student might be at risk for dropping out. This would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to maintain an early warning system to identify at-risk students in grades K-12, and scale up an initiative to partner at-risk students in qualifying schools with adult mentors to help them complete high school. The early warning system is important because statistics show that future high school dropouts begin dropping out in elementary school (to read about how this happens, see my previous post on the City Council Workshop).
Why do we care about high school drop out rates? Because
– dropouts between the ages of 18 and 24 are more than twice as likely as college graduates to live in poverty.
– dropouts between the ages of 16 and 24 have an incarceration rate 63 times higher than college graduates.
– when compared to the typical high school graduate — a dropout will end up costing taxpayers an average of $292,000 over a lifetime due to the price tag associated with incarceration and other factors such as how much less they pay in taxes.”
Preparing our students for adult success saves all of us money in the end and creates added successful members in our society.
Vice-Chairperson Val Gilman, who supports the bill, especially since it includes an early warning system and a mentor program, raised this issue at our last School Committee Meeting on October 9. The Committee agreed to review the bill and discuss it at their next meeting on October 23.
Last school year, Gloucester had 13 students drop out of high school. While Massachusetts’s graduation rates at public high schools have increased for a sixth consecutive year, it would be great to enable all students to graduate from high school prepared for college/career and civic life. Improving student achievement and ensuring that every student graduates means paying careful attention to the relationships among students, teachers, and content that lie at the core of the learning process. It also means bettering life for all of us.