April 23, 2013

ON CAMPUS: Push to graduate gains steam

Stanislaus County educators meet to find ways to keep kids on track to graduate, starting in middle school years.

Stanislaus County educators tackled the thorny problem of dropout prevention over breakfast burritos this week. The county Office of Education and United Way will collaborate next school year on a push to keep kids on track all the way to the finish line.

Points to ponder:

-- A future drop out can be spotted as early as kindergarten, by looking at who misses the most school.

-- Seventh grade is a make it or break it year for many teens, with that year marking the start of a spiral down for future dropouts.

-- Stanislaus County's graduation rate is 78.4 percent, just a hair below the state average, but its drop out rate, 14.6 percent, is significantly higher. The difference is fewer teens making it through second chance programs, like a fifth year in high school or getting a GED.

-- Second-language speakers who never really master English are nearly twice as likely to drop out.

-- Young women are far more likely to graduate than young men -- 11 percent more likely among Latinos; 12 percent more likely among white students.

-- The median salary for high school graduates is 30 percent higher than people without a diploma. Dropouts overall cost more, being far more likely to receive welfare, have high health costs, commit crimes, have children with high health needs.

What's a county to do? Here are some areas the group looked at Tuesday morning:

-- The county office is planning a Come Back Kids charter school for young adults 18-22 who want to finish high school and get job skills.

-- Talking to leaders of school districts that dramatically improved graduation rates

-- Looking at high quality summer learning programs for at-risk students

-- Transition help for incoming seventh-graders and expanded middle school mentoring

-- Finding ways to involve parents and families in the effort

Lots of discussion and great ideas on sticky notes Tuesday, but details of the Destination Graduation push remain to be written. What is crystal clear, however, is the need.

PITMAN PRIDE: Ruben Modesto of Pitman High School in Turlock is one of five finalists for the Comcast SportsNet 2013 All-Star Teacher Award. The winner earns a $20,000 donation to the school. Vote by texting to 82653 or online at through June 2.

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