November 21, 2012
Reversing High School Drop-Out Rates
The lack of high school completion by young people in the United States is widely acknowledged as a serious problem in need of immediate attention. It seems a whole generation of individuals whose futures should be bright and whose contribution to society should propel the U.S. to global leadership in technology, innovation, and entrepreneurialism are losing ground. Instead of bright futures full of hope and promise, high school drop-outs face a dismal, downward spiral of unfulfilled potential and economic despair.
According to a 2011 report broadcast on National Public Radio (NPR), individuals who do not complete high school have an unemployment rate twice that of the general population and have a lifetime earning potential that is $1 million less than that of college graduates. In addition to the cost to the individual, society pays a price as well. High school dropouts are more likely to commit crimes, live in poverty, abuse drugs, and access public assistance, costing federal and state governments hundreds of billions of dollars each year.
Our area of the nation is not immune to this invasive problem. Montgomery and Fulton Counties struggle with elevated high school drop-out rates and the inherent individual and social problems that accompany them. Fortunately, however, FM in partnership with the Greater Amsterdam School District (GASD), Centro Civico, and FMS Workforce Solutions are working to reverse this downward spiral through a newly awarded grant from the New York State Department of Education. Liberty Partnership Programs (LPP), in existence since 1988, offers comprehensive pre-college, workplace readiness, and dropout prevention programming across New York State. The purpose of these programs is to join together school districts, local institutions of higher education, and community organizations with an “all hands on deck” approach to assist at-risk youth by providing services and resources focused on high school completion.
The LPP grant at FM will serve 240 students of the GASD in grades eight through twelve. Tenets of the program include high expectations for students focused on academic achievement made possible through a targeted, individual approach to provide necessary resources to increase scholastic skills. These principles will be accomplished through use of personal learning plans. These plans, constructed by LPP staff and the student, will craft goals for academic achievement and combine them with necessary interventions such as tutoring and supplemental instruction.
Intrusive case management techniques will be employed to join the forces of parents, teachers, and LPP staff in meeting the needs of each student. Community engagement of LPP students through service learning projects will forge connections to others in the community increasing students’ resilience and teaching them the value of civic involvement in the betterment of their own lives and the lives of others. Prior to high school graduation, each LPP student will also complete the National Workplace Readiness Credential (NWRC) that will prepare him or her to be productive members of the local workforce.
Through the interventions of the LPP program at FM, participants will improve their academic performance, progress through high school, and graduate ready for college and the workplace. LPP will change the life track of its students from that of high school dropout to high school graduate, and in the process turn unfulfilled potential into hopeful and promising futures for the students and our community.
Jean Karutis is Director of Grants and Grant Funded Programs at FM.