Preventing high school students from dropping out is a concern we all should share, according to Frederick Fields. And, what’s really discouraging is that over half of the students that choose to discontinue their secondary education – dropped out in the 10th and 11th grades. The average dropout rate in 2017 was 4.7%, and while the statistics for the school year 2019-2020 are still being aggregated, some educational scholars are expecting those numbers to climb as high as 25%.

Frederick Fields Little Rock is passionate about saving students. He is also actively involved in the Graduation Alliance of Little Rock School District, an organization that works diligently to re-engage students who left school and still need to receive their high-school diploma. This organization brings together educators and innovators who are putting together actionable programs that tackle not only the academic component of rising dropout rates, but also the social, cultural, and financial challenges that these students face.

Why do students drop out of high school?

The first thing most people think when addressing this question is poor grades exacerbated by behavioral problems and a lack of parental guidance. And while this is often the case in historically underserved communities, Frederick has found that dropout rates are high for those that don’t have these personal issues. For many other high schoolers, the issue has deeper roots. Roots that have been cultivated in urban landscapes across the nation and bring forth a harvest of social-economic disadvantage.

The truth is, many high school students drop out to start working as early as 16 or 17 years of age, to help financially support the family. While the wages are not enough to live independently, they are often as much as 50% of the family’s income. For these students that need to be re-engaged, online learning and online GED opportunities

And this is the point in aggressively identifying and reaching out to students that may not return to finish their high school education. New technologies, new ways of learning, and more avenues for part-time work geared toward young adults can all be used to re-engage and support or prevent high school dropouts. Frederick Fields Little Rock offers his 5 tips for student re-engagement.

1. Local strategies to identify students who are at risk

The number of high school students that are out-of-school and in danger of not returning is magnified by the current worldwide health crisis. Fields believes it is even more important to identify at-risk students and engage them now. Instead of waiting to see who will return when educational systems normalize, educators could start now by monitoring attendance and truancy.

These early warning signs can be used to determine which families will need home visits or phone contact, and which families can benefit from alternate programs, such as family counseling, truancy programs, or other mediation services. Students that are disconnected from the educational system in any way should be candidates for re-engagement services

2. Community outreach and re-engagement services

High school success is a community issue and not just a family problem. Fields is certain that the conversation must shift away from blame and shame’ of the student and family, to a community-based conversation. Local non-profits, community leaders, health providers, local business owners, along with volunteer mentors and tutors can be important factors for lowering dropout rates.

Community outreach can include high-school re-enrollment campaigns in the community. Phone banks, support from organizations, and on-site high school representatives can be made available to discuss the many ways that students can return to high school and earn their diplomas.

3. Assessment of student’s learning and living needs

Every student learns differently and every student will have differing home circumstances. Frederick Fields supports successful programs that are flexible enough to meet the diverse needs of the student population. This assessment stage can begin with addressing past classroom behavior and the student’s present learning challenges. This can’t be done in a vacuum. But, it must include family involvement and student feedback.

Begin with outlining who the at-risk students are, and which students have already decided not to return to high school. Some metrics that can help identify at-risk youth include grades, test scores, attendance, tardiness, and students that display disruptive behaviors.

4. Referral to appropriate community services

Once students are deemed at-risk of not returning to complete their secondary education, there must appropriate community services in place to assist. Graduation rates can be increased when students and families have access to the right services. These may include daycare for children of teen mothers, after-school programs that include recreation, arts, sports, apprenticeships, and workforce development programs.

Frederick Fields sees this as an important area for community involvement. Increase part-time jobs for young people such as a neighborhood grocer employing young people for grocery stocking and bagging and beauty salons can provide apprenticeships that start with young women helping to clean and make appointments. When the community is engaged in helping at-risk students, then schools and parents are empowered to do their part also.

5. Frederick Fields and targeted resources for student success

And finally, without the resources that are needed for success in the modern learning environment, Frederick Fields doesn’t see how economically disadvantaged students can succeed. There is a need for one-one-tutors, organized GED study groups, access to libraries and computers, and for some families, free internet services and home laptops are resources that must be supported.

When strategic student re-engagement plans are put into action, Fields sees a future where many students at risk of dropping out will find a way to successful high school completion.