Dropping in on student dropouts
The Kansas City Star
Kansas City school board President Airick Leonard West and Superintendent Steve Green have been among district officials making telephone calls to students and knocking on the doors of youths’ last known addresses to try to determine whether they have dropped out of school or transferred elsewhere.
It’s an extraordinary effort by a team of Kansas City Public School officials, but it has to happen to more accurately report whether the graduation rate is an abysmal 50 percent or substantially higher. West said it is much higher.
Urban school districts that exist on state lines have difficulty determining whether students have dropped out of school or transferred to other districts, where they eventually graduate. Add charter schools to the mix, and the problem of keeping up with the high transience of the student population increases.
But poor attendance and — at least on paper — a high dropout rate contributed to Kansas City Public Schools losing its state accreditation in January. The district must do what it can to get a better accounting of the students’ whereabouts.
West said students who have stopped going to class are informed of options beyond traditional high school, where they may not have had academic success. Those include alternative programs and high school equivalency diplomas. Having that information sometimes rejuvenates students’ interest in learning.
Meanwhile, Kansas and Missouri will be using a student identification numbering system to better track individual academic performance as well as attendance. It can serve as an early warning system if a student is having problems. That also is a good tool helping the Kansas City district get a step closer to regaining its accreditation. The sooner these systems are up and running and widely used, the better.