Vallejo Unified finds ways to curb dropouts

May 12, 2009 5:48:29 PM PDT
There's some encouraging news about graduation and dropout rates among California students. State superintendent of schools, Jack O'Connell, says more than 68 percent of public school students graduated last year, which is up a bit from the year before.

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Dropout rates have slowed down, but there is still a big disparity between African-American students and other races. The Vallejo Unified School District is working hard to turn things around and last year reported fewer students dropping out of high school. The number decreased five percent.

Vallejo Unified says it starts at the middle school level. In the past six years, they've used only credentialed teachers in their after-school and tutoring programs.

"A lot of districts use others to save money, but we spend a little bit more and use only credentialed teachers and we really think that is making a difference," says Jason Hodge, with the Vallejo Unified School District.

Moira Bielby, a teacher, says if seventh and eighth graders are better prepared, they will make it through high school.

"When they know that they know what they are doing, then they actually are interested and motivated to learn. But if they don't know what they are doing, then they just feel that it's stupid and boring," says Bielby.

This year Vallejo Unified will begin a new and more vigorous summer program for eighth graders who are behind and if they aren't ready for high school, they'll be held back.

Despite the improvement, Vallejo still had a high dropout rate in 2007-2008 of nearly 35 percent, compared to 20 percent for all of California.

"We are doing things everyday to try to bring more parental involvement into the schools. We are trying to bring more mentors into our schools because we don't want to see any of our kids lost, but especially such large number of black and Latino kids," says Hodge.

Student Greg Thompson knows what's at stake if he drops out.

"I might as well buckle down these last two years and get my high school diploma and do something with my life. This is the decision that I am making right now, that will affect me for the rest of my life," says Thompson.

Links:
To view or download state, county, district, and school-level dropout data, please visit: CDE's DataQuest
For more information: California Dropout Research Project Graduation rates for California students
California dropout rates

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