Dropouts affect entire community

Friday, August 7, 2009

GREENCASTLE -- Tuesday afternoon, Putnam County representatives from education, government, industry, economic development, social services, juvenile probation and businesses came together for a third time this summer.

The group is looking for ways to attack a community problem that affects every member of our county.

Nationwide, nearly one in three U.S. high school students fails to graduate. In total, approximately 1.3 million students drop out each year -- averaging 7,200 every school day.

Brad Tucker with State Farm Insurance and David English, executive director of the Putnam County United Way, hosted the meeting at the Miller Conference Center.

Tucker, who is also a retired educator, has been tapped to head a group to explore ways to reduce Putnam County's dropout rate through a program called America's Promise Alliance.

General Colin Powell founded this initiative in 1997. Today it is chaired by Powell's his wife Alma. It is a cross-sector partnership of more than 300 corporations, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and advocacy groups passionate about improving lives and changing outcomes for children.

Their research has shown an inextricable link between the well being of children and our nation's economic health.

"Experts say that dropping out of high school affects not just students and their families, but the country overall -- including businesses, government and communities," said Tucker.

"Those who drop out are more likely to be incarcerated, rely on public programs and social services, and go without health insurance than those who graduate from high school," he continued.

According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, dropouts from just the class of 2007 will cost the nation $329 billion in lost wages, taxes, and revenue over their lifetimes.

In an effort to reduce America's high school dropout rates, the Alliance introduced the Dropout Prevention program.

More than 35 summits have been held in cities nationwide -- bringing together more than 14,000 mayors and governors, business owners, child advocates, school administrators, students and parents to develop workable solutions and action plans.

The Putnam County group plans to send 10 to 15 people to the America's Promise Alliance in Indianapolis on Sept. 25.

"We hope those people will come and pass on the information they gain. And together we can determine ways to increase the number of students graduating," said English.

The group on Tuesday spent a little over an hour discussing issues and gathering information surrounding the effect dropping out of school has on the community and the child.

"Not only does it economically impact the community but it is condemning these kids to a life of poverty," said Greencastle High School Principal Randy Corn.

One discussion centered on making cultural changes so that school becomes something for children to look forward to attending.

"There is a lot of opportunity out there. We need to start teaching them this earlier. By high school it is too late," said Economic Development Director Bill Dory.

"Convincing parents that graduation is an achievable goal is important," added Greencastle Mayor Sue Murray.

Students moving from one parent to another and one school district to another are an issue. So is the tradition of parents who drop out not expecting their children to graduate.

Not having enough money to send kids to school despite free and reduced book fees and lunch programs was mentioned. Of course, pregnancy, drugs and alcohol use and abuse factor into the formula.

North Putnam High School Principal Alan Zerkel brought up the idea of letting kids finish school at their own pace, not necessarily in four years.

"We have to do this in four years. There are certain things you can do and some you can't. Many college students today take five years to finish their degrees. Why not let high school students who need more time do the same?" he asked.

"And, let those who can finish in three do that too," added another person.

Problems with special needs students are another issue. Cloverdale Community School Superintendent Carrie Milner explained how a student's Intelligence Quotient (IQ) could affect graduation outcomes.

"The average is 100 points. Fifteen points below that and kids are struggling. A student having a 75 point IQ doesn't have the same ability as one with 115 point IQ," said Milner.

At the end of the meeting there were many questions and many suggestions.

"You can see the issue is huge. How do we get a handle on it?" said Tucker.

The next step will be meeting with school principals and superintendents to determine who will attend the summit in Indianapolis.

"We need to see if there is something we can do countywide and share recourses," said Tucker. "We'll bring in all the partners and see what initiatives come out of it in the future.

For information visit www.americaspromise.org or contact Brad Tucker at 653-9007.

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  • Get some teachers that want to teach because they want to help a person grow and learn the subject. We have too many teachers that are teachers for the income and paid summers off. Too many teachers have no passion about their job, many are lazy have other students do their grading. Not ALL are this way but too many are and this is a big factor to the drop out rating.

    -- Posted by savethekids on Fri, Aug 7, 2009, at 11:40 AM
  • When I was in school one of my friends was struggling - he was a sophmore and was turning 18 - and the school told him to just do himself a favor and sign himself out of school, they had the papers ready. they told him he wasn't worth their time.

    I hope that isn't the way putnam county schools are now. that was 10 years ago, I hope they have changed their attitude, if not, no wonder Putnam County schools have drop-out problems. you don't care about your kids enough to actually teach them...

    -- Posted by luv2bmom2001 on Fri, Aug 7, 2009, at 11:19 PM
  • Dear savethekids: You are correct about some teachers just going through the motions and collecting a paycheck. There are some doing that, a small minority. Those individuals do need to be weeded out. But please understand, the summer pay is not free or extra money. A teacher earns a salary for what they do. That salary is usually divided out over 12 months, not just the actual time when school is in session. Teacher are not paid during or for vacations.

    -- Posted by cvilleguy on Sat, Aug 8, 2009, at 6:56 AM
  • Not all of this can be blamed on the teachers. Take a look at the curriculum teachers are expected to teach in a 9 months time...it's insane. The Indiana Dept of Education lists the curriculum by grade. Mitch and now Bennett are making things impossible for teachers and students.

    -- Posted by citizenoftheworld on Sat, Aug 8, 2009, at 3:29 PM
  • savethekids'

    I agree with you !

    I also think the schools are hearding the kids through grades and when they get up to high school it's to late.Most school advisors are in it for the money, (no all).

    Free Books for everyone and maybe uniforms so no kid has to keep up with the jones.

    lets break down a school day:6 classes say 5 minutes between them. 5 -10 minutes to get all kids settled into class, lose attention 10 minutes before class ends. I know lets give kids homework , that way the parents can teach kids school work. Parents have enough things to teach their kids. I think if the kids should have to pass sats and other test to grad. So should the teachers (yearly) Nurses and other professions have to. The kids are our future. Let's treat them that way.

    -- Posted by Sand mann on Mon, Aug 10, 2009, at 7:50 AM
  • Schools exist in their present state because educrats, bureaucrats, and politicians want it that way. The greater their failure, the greater their funding

    Teachers, parents, and students are simply a marginal consideration.

    Do you really want a great education for your kids? How about starting with a separation of school and state.

    -- Posted by VonMises on Tue, Aug 11, 2009, at 6:07 AM
  • i had a son that was told by his guidence counselor inhis freshman year that he would be better off being home schooled. he left school and went on to pass the ged test without ever picking up a book to study. i figure it was the schools loss. he now works at the war memorial in indy and can tell you what ever you need to know about history

    -- Posted by faisymae1960 on Wed, Aug 12, 2009, at 10:20 PM
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