Reducing the Number of Students Who Drop Out of School

LOS ANGELES (June 9, 2015) – The Board of Education, which oversees the Los Angeles Unified School District, approved a measure that attempts to create a new plan for lowering the dropout rate, a persistent barrier thwarting L.A. Unified from attaining a 100 percent graduation rate from high school.

District Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines has been handed the task of finding answers for a problem that affects nearly one of every five District students. While the District’s graduation rate has climbed in recent years topping a record-high 70 percent, the dropout rate remains persistently stubborn. About 17 percent of students leave L.A. Unified without graduating.
Board Member Dr. George J. McKenna III, Board Vice President Steve Zimmer and Board Member Mónica Ratliff proposed the plan. They hope a policy can be crafted that leads to immediate improvement. They outlined an approach that identifies students at-risk of dropping out of school, and developing a strategy that suits individual needs.

“We owe all students entering kindergarten at LAUSD the opportunity to successfully matriculate and graduate high school prepared to enter college or the 21st century career of their choice,” McKenna said.
He added: “Even allowing one student to drop out is one too many. We have not done our jobs if we don’t do all we can to keep students in school and provide them with the resources within our reach to adequately educate our youth.”
Initial efforts would focus on students whose achievement levels remain persistently low.
Those include:

• Introducing flexible hours for attending classes and setting up class schedules that accommodates students who may have employment needs, certain family responsibilities or health-related issues.

• Allowing high school students to earn academic credits through adult education or adult vocational education programs.

• Working with labor partners to create smaller classes for students in grades three to seven who show academic deficiencies in math and language arts. In addition, daily class hours may be extended for those students.

• Assigning counseling and support staff to select middle and high schools, providing extra academic support.

• Permitting students to graduate, up to age 22, who have not earned enough academic credits to finish after four years of high school.

“I am pleased to support Dr. McKenna’s streamlining of services to at-risk students in order to maximize their chance of success,” said Board Member Bennett Kayser.

The District intends to base part of its policy on recommendations proposed by the National Dropout Prevention Center, a group that works to raise the graduation rate in schools nationwide. A key element for the new plan is working with schools to identify students at-risk of dropping out and coming up with a strategy that suits individual needs.
The board’s request targets goals for putting the plan into place. For instance, the superintendent is scheduled to review the District’s program and to hold a conference by Sept. 30 on eliminating dropouts. By December 15, the superintendent is expected to develop a plan and timetable for strengthening the District’s efforts on dropouts.
Then, if all goes as planned by January 2017, the new program will be rolled out districtwide.
Contact: Daryl Strickland (213) 241-6766