High School Reform Initiatives in the States

From Dropout to Diploma:
Reengaging and Reenrolling
High School Dropouts to
Transform Colorado’s
Sunny Deyé
Public Priorities for the 21st Century, PSC 5374
Policy Recommendation Prepared for Colorado
Governor and U.S. Senate Candidates
May 9, 2010
State Policy Environment
Governor Bill Ritter's January 11, 2007,
State of the State speech:
 Announced
goal to cut the state dropout rate
in half within ten years
Colorado is making progress:
 2008
legislation creating the School
Counselor Corps Grant Program
 2009 legislation creating the Colorado Office
of Dropout Prevention and Student ReEngagement within the Colorado Department
of Education
Policy Gap - Dropout Recovery
While ongoing programs are seeing positive
effects (see the March 2010 Policy Report to the
Joint Education Committee), there exists a gap
in policy with regard to reenrolling students who
have already dropped out.
The state’s needs for an educated, wellprepared workforce demand that these students
be brought back into the system and provided
with necessary support to graduate with a high
school diploma
The social and economic costs of high school
Dropouts from Colorado’s Class of 2009 alone will
cost the state nearly $4.5 billion in lost wages,
taxes, and productivity over their lifetimes.
High school dropouts are also the most vulnerable
to a struggling economy.
 July 2009 unemployment rates:
 Dropouts - 15.4%
 High School Grads - 9.4%
 Some College or Associate's Degree - 7.9%
 Bachelor's Degree or Higher - 4.7%
Good news
Research indicates that high school
dropouts eventually want to earn a
diploma and that they will work hard to
get it.
State strategies to reengage and reenroll
high school dropouts
Key state policy choices revolve around
three issues:
 Who
can provide services and receive funding
for returning students;
 Flexibility in the hours and times of day
students are required to be seated in a
classroom; and
 The maximum age limit to which free
education must be provided.
State funding streams and accountability systems are often
structured in a way that discourages dropout recovery
Who can provide services to returning students and how they will be
Colorado should consider implementing policies that:
Permit cost-sharing among programs;
 Allow flexibility across eligibility requirements to better serve youth in certain
targeted communities; and
 Recognize and support the role of community-based organizations in helping
more students graduate by allowing them to compete for funds or be eligible
Examples - Oregon (funding follows student) vs. Texas (funding
remains in school district)
Dropout recovery should be an attractive option for school districts but not mandated
Successful dropout recovery programs are flexible with regard to
“seat time” - the hours and times of day students are required to be
seated in a classroom to meet state attendance requirements and
qualify for state education funding dollars.
The state is well on its way toward standards-based reform with
the Preschool to Postsecondary Alignment Act and is wellpositioned to dramatically rethink the traditional high school model.
Eliminating seat time requirements altogether cuts to the heart of
two problems:
A student who fails a class is unlikely to repeat the class (same teacher, books,
environment) and somehow magically pass it the second time;
 Seat time requirements are especially problematic for dropout recovery
programs where students often work during the day and take classes either
during the evening or weekends, or even online.
Colorado students should be able to earn credit based on
proficiency rather than seat time.
Upper Age Limit
“Free education,” also referred to as “statutory age,” refers to the
ages in which a person must be admitted to a public school by law
without charge. Colorado's is age 21.
In 2007, Texas became the first state in the nation to allow students
up to age 26 to be admitted to school districts in order to complete
the requirements for a high school diploma
The law doesn't obligate districts to enroll older students
 Districts that choose to participate are not required to continue serving older
students who become discipline problems
 The law requires them to keep older students who have been out of school for
three or more years separate from students who are 18 or younger.
State budget concerns are biggest hurdle - but a quick look at the
long-term impacts of high school dropouts on the state’s economy
provides the clear justification to spend more money helping
students graduate.
Low- and No-Cost Options: Public
Recognition / Statewide Campaign
Not all efforts to recover dropouts need be costly - simply being
recognized for good work can be a great motivator for school districts
and individual schools.
Colorado might consider instituting an annual recognition program that
highlights the efforts of schools and districts making progress on
dropout recovery efforts.
This would also allow the state an annual forum to share best
practices, provide recognition to faculty and staff, and encourage other
schools and districts to increase their dropout prevention and recovery
Colorado should also develop a statewide campaign that builds on
current work and sets the stage for additional investments in the
programs and policies that are working - especially as the state budget
begins to recover.
Why This Matters
Colorado must focus on reengaging students who have
already dropped out of school, not only to help meet the
goal of cutting dropout rates in half by 2017 – but also to
improve the state’s future workforce and social fabric.
Researchers have associated increased education with:
Improved health
Increased civic participation
Higher rates of marriage
Decreased incidence of divorce and births outside marriage
Improved educational achievement for subsequent generations
The Colorado Promise
The Colorado Promise was Governor Bill Ritter’s campaign
platform in 2006, stated as “the promise to our children and
our grandchildren that we will leave them a better Colorado.
It’s the promise that Colorado reaches its fullest potential. It’s
the promise of a brighter Colorado in the 21st century.”
The Colorado Promise emphasizes improving the state
education system and stimulating Colorado’s economy to
attract new jobs.
Colorado has made great strides, and now must turn its
attention to young adults who have dropped out and who
want to drop back in – to earn a high school diploma, to
become contributing citizens of Colorado, and to ensure that
the state has the workforce necessary to compete in the 21st
century economy.