The Department of Education released numbers last week showing the dropout rate in Iowa schools increased last year — though Iowa still has one of the lowest dropout rates in the nation, Department director, Judy Jeffrey, says many things have been done to address the problem.
Jeffrey says they did have a dropout summit in the past with some of the districts that have a higher percentage of students who drop out. She says they also have several initiatives underway that support learning and positive behavior to help teachers determine what they need to do to keep kids in school. Jeffrey says the department works with districts to develop their high school structure and environments to try and keep kids in school.
She says the state allows districts to levy funds for dropout prevention if they have a program approved by the department of education. Jeffrey says there are a lot of programs to provide information and resources to help keep kids in school "but it really comes down to that personal effort at that local building and within those communities that really matter." Jeffrey says keeping the rate from rising is an ongoing problem.
Jeffrey says the problem is not unique as educators across the nation talk about how difficult it is to keep kids in school and to get them to graduate. Jeffrey says one problem in Iowa is a mixed message on dropouts. Jeffrey says the state policy legally allows a kid to drop out of school at age 16, while at the same time schools are being held accountable for a better graduation rates and lower dropout rates. "So we have policy structures right now that are not consistent in the message that they send to our young people," Jeffrey says.
Jeffrey says students thinking of dropping out now face a bleak future with the economy in a downturn. Jeffrey says if kids want to go to college, enter the military, or get a job, the minimum requirement is a high school diploma. She says many of the jobs that would have been attainable in the last couple of years, are now being filled by people who have been laid off.
Jeffrey says they are not able to track the students who have dropped out to see if they even returned and got their high school diploma or G-E-D. She says they department doesn’t know that know, but some school districts know those numbers. Jeffrey says the new system that assigns students tracking numbers will be linked to community colleges to help them track that information. You can see the dropout numbers on the Department of Education’s website.