U.S. Department of Education Funds Innovative Programs to Reduce Dropouts

Date: October 25, 2010

The United States Department of Education recently announced the appropriation of nearly $100 million to fund programs that help high school students succeed academically, including more than $46 million to fund the Department’s High School Graduation Initiative (HSGI) program.

Awarded to State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs), the grants are specifically targeted to help increase graduation rates by funding dropout prevention and recovery programs, including Ombudsman programs, in high schools with annual dropout rates that exceed their state’s average. Grant funds can also be used to implement early intervention programs in middle schools that feed into high schools with higher-than-average dropout rates.

Here are a few examples of how states and districts will use the funds to reduce dropouts:

  • The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education awarded its portion of the HSGI funds, $760,747, to Haverhill Public Schools. The district will use a multi-pronged approach to help reduce dropouts. Haverhill plans to expand of existing programs that offer schedule flexibility and nontraditional classroom environments for high school students who are at risk or who have already dropped out. Additionally, the district will implement an early intervention strategy by creating an outreach team to identify and work with at-risk middle school students and families and offer summer classes to ease the transition from middle to high school.
  • Using its $15 million grant over five years, Colorado will fund “intensive intervention” programs in 32 schools throughout the state while providing statewide training and technical assistance to promote best practices in dropout prevention and recovery in 22 additional schools.
  • The San Antonio Independent School District will expand an existing early intervention pilot program to each of its district middle schools as a result of receiving the $14 million five-year grant. The program, Middle School Partners, is designed to help eighth-grade students who have fallen behind recover credits in order to graduate on time with their peers. Students in the program half of their instructional time on eighth-grade core subject areas and half on online high school courses, allowing them to catch up and earn enough credits to enter high school as sophomores.

In total, districts in 18 states will benefit from this grant funding.

Ombudsman has been active in providing these types of services to students and districts in all different types of settings across the country, and we welcome these dedicated resources from the federal government.  It is clear from this and similar initiatives that federal, state and local education leaders are turning to nontraditional programs to boost achievement among students at highest risk of dropping out of our schools and stem the tide of dropouts.  Education officials are increasingly focusing resources on this at-risk population, and they are willing to invest in programs that expand successful local or regional initiatives.

It is an effort — and a focus — long overdue.

Categories: Dropout Prevention & Recovery, News
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