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In School Until Age 18

Raising America’s high school drop out age to 18. No exceptions. Is this the magic bullet to help kids from slipping through the cracks?

Casillas, 17, of East Chicago, Ind., works on some class work during her Language Arts class at Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh, Ind., on Friday, Aug.10, 2007. This program puts kids, primarily high school drop outs from the ages of 16-18, through a five-month residential program with a military feel to help build their leadership skills, confidence and commitment to graduating from high school. (AP)

Casillas, 17, of East Chicago, Ind., works on some class work during her Language Arts class at Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh, Ind., on Friday, Aug.10, 2007. This program puts kids, primarily high school drop outs from the ages of 16-18, through a five-month residential program with a military feel to help build their leadership skills, confidence and commitment to graduating from high school. (AP)

In 1970, the United States had the world’s highest high school graduation rate.  Today, we’re number 21.  That is not a good ranking when jobs in today’s economy more than ever require a solid base in education.

Today, three out of ten American high school freshmen will not get a high school diploma.  That drop-out rate is too high.  Last week, President Obama called for all states to require students to stay in high school until they get a diploma or they are 18.  No more sixteen and out.  Is that the answer?

This hour, On Point:  Raising America’s high school drop-out age to eighteen.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Cecilia Rouse, Professor in the Economics of Education at Princeton University. From 2009-2011 served as a member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. Her op-ed in the New York Times last week was “The True Cost of High School Dropouts.”

Byron Young,  a musician, manager at a retail store and administrator at a government contractor. He dropped out of Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, MD at age 16.

Peggy Korellis, principal, Team Englewood, a Chicago Public High School started 5 years ago with 450 students.

Highlights

“If someone is 16 years old, they should have the freedom to choose whether they want to go to school or whether they want to start working,” said caller Gordon from Bowling Green, Kentucky. “Maybe they want to live a simple life.”

And yet the state has a clear interest in keeping students in school: Those who stay in school are less likely to become teen parents, commit crimes, or draw on welfare and more likely to participate in civic life – in addition to making much more money over their lifetimes, said Cecilia Rouse, Professor in the Economics of Education at Princeton University. Education is both an investment for the community and the individual, she said.

Which helps explain why 21 states already have laws on the books that keep kids in school until the age of 18. While not a panacea, lengthening the time that citizens are required to go to school “is a step that can certainly move the needle,” Rouse said.

State laws can be effective by targeting the parents of students at risk of dropping out, a powerful tool to keep kids going to class.

Other high school dropouts were in favor of changing the laws to keep kids in school until age 18. “The fact that I made an immature decision when I was 17 years old is still affecting me,” said caller Jenna from Trumansburg, New York. She’s now 23 and regretting dropping out. “In the end, I should have stuck it out,” she said.

Education experts note that simply changing the law isn’t enough to matter for students dealing with gangs, drugs, family problems, and a host of other issues. “Usually the kids who drop out have lives that are in such disarray that they just can’t come to school anymore,” said Peggy Korellis, a principal at Team Englewood, a Chicago Public High.

Caller Desirre from Amherst, Mass., a high school dropout, said that she opposed the new law because it doesn’t make sense to compel people to do things they don’t want to do. She said that “You don’t have any options, you don’t want to go [to school],” she said. She said that she dropped out both because of family problems and bullying from classmates.

Now, she’s now finishing her bachelor’s degree from University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “While state legislative efforts to raise the dropout age to 18 have spread in recent years, many have had trouble winning passage. Last year, for example, such legislation was considered in Alaska, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland and Rhode Island — but only Rhode Island actually changed its law.”

L.A. Times “Could keeping kids from dropping out be as simple as telling them they have to stay in school? President Obama implied that in his State of the Union address Tuesday, calling on all states to require students to stay in high school until they either graduate or turn 18.”

National Center for Education StatisticsThe status dropout rate represents the percentage of 16- through 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and have not earned a high school credential (either a diploma or an equivalency credential such as a General Educational Development [GED] certificate).”

“If someone is 16 years old, they should have the freedom to choose whether they want to go to school or whether they want to start working,” said caller Gordon from Bowling Green, Kentucky. “Maybe they want to live a simple life.”

 

And yet the state has a clear interest in keeping students in school: Those who stay in school are less likely to become teen parents, commit crimes, or draw on welfare and more likely to participate in civic life – in addition to making much more money over their lifetimes, said Cecilia Rouse, Professor in the Economics of Education at Princeton University. Education is both an investment for the community and the individual, she said.

 

Which helps explain why 21 states already have laws on the books that keep kids in school until the age of 18.  While not a panacea, lengthening the time that citizens are required to go to school “is a step that can certainly move the needle,” Rouse said.

 

State laws can be effective by targeting the parents of students at risk of dropping out, a powerful tool to keep kids going to class.

 

Other high school dropouts were in favor of changing the laws to keep kids in school until age 18. “The fact that I made an immature decision when I was 17 years old is still affecting me,” said caller Jenna from Trumansburg, New York. She’s now 23 and regretting dropping out. “In the end, I should have stuck it out,” she said.  

 

Education experts note that simply changing the law isn’t enough to matter for students dealing with gangs, drugs, family problems, and a host of other issues. “Usually the kids who drop out have lives that are in such disarray that they just can’t come to school anymore,” said Peggy Korellis, a principal at Team Englewood, a Chicago Public High.

 

Caller Desirre from Amherst, Mass., a high school dropout, said that she opposed the new law because it doesn’t make sense to compel people to do things they don’t want to do. She said that “You don’t have any options, you don’t want to go [to school],” she said. She said that she dropped out both because of family problems and bullying from classmates.

 

Now, she’s now finishing her bachelor’s degree from University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

 

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