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No Surprise: Dropouts Poorer

Not all smiles for those who don't graduate.

Not all smiles for those who don't graduate.

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – Teens who drop out of high school are twice as likely to live in poverty as their peers who received a high school diploma, and three times as likely to be poor than those who attended some college or earned an associate’s degree.

Those conclusions, contained in a study released late last month by Harrisburg PA-based Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC), probably come as little surprise. PPC, a children’s advocacy organization, contends they demonstrate a need to get dropouts excited again about education.

PPC’s study is based in part on Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) data from the 2006-2007 school year. PPC reported, for example, that according to the PDE the Pottsgrove School District had a 92.1 percent graduation rate in that year, 2.3 points better than the statewide total.

However, PPC claimed Pottsgrove’s “grad gap” was 31.9 percent, or 11.2 percent worse than the statewide total. It computed the “grad gap” as the difference between the number of 9th grade enrollees (326) and the number of graduates (222), divided by the 9th grade enrollment number. The calculation did not seem to account for mitigating factors, such as post-9th grade transfers to secondary schools other than Pottsgrove High School.

“In today’s high-tech world, securing a high school diploma is a must. Far too many Pennsylvania children fail to graduate,” said Joan L. Benso, PPC president. Kids, she added, need both the necessary support to stay in school and a way to be “re-engaged in their education once they have dropped out.”

Recommendations PPC thinks could help reconnect high school dropouts to their education include:

  • Providing low-literacy support to improve literacy skills for struggling students;
  • Providing connections to employers, occupations, and post-secondary education;
  • Accelerated learning programs for over-age students;
  • Evening classes, online courses, and other learning options to address the particular needs of out-of-school youth;
  • Small learning environments and connections to caring adults; and
  • Support for special populations, including pregnant and parenting teens or foster care youth.

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