POTTSTOWN PA – The Pottsgrove School District is one of 35 districts and charter schools across Pennsylvania signed up to use a new program that identifies, and offers special tools to help, middle school students who are at risk of dropping out of school, the state Department of Education announced.
The program, called “The Early Warning System and Interventions Catalog,” was promoted by Susan Corbett, the wife of Gov. Tom Corbett, during a visit Tuesday (Sept. 2, 2014) to the Annville-Cleona district in Lebanon County. The state’s “first lady” has advocated initiatives to increase high school graduation rates in Pennsylvania since 2011.
Early Warning gives teachers and school leaders tools to recognize students who are at risk of dropping out, the department said. It also identifies school-, government- and community-based resources to keep students on track to graduate.
Pottsgrove, Annville-Cleona and 12 other education providers will begin using the system in early 2015, according to a department press release that accompanied Corbett’s trip. The remainder are starting the program this fall (2014).
The system is being made available to middle schools statewide at no cost to school districts or the state. Federal and private grants and donations are paying the cost of implementation.
Research shows that, during middle school, students at risk of dropping out fare poorly in what the department dubbed as “the ABC’s: attendance, behavior and course performance.”
Without intervention, it claimed, students who demonstrate one or more of the dropout indicators only have a 20-percent chance of graduating on time. If these students are identified and matched with appropriate interventions, however, it said their odds of graduating increase to 75 percent.
The state tested Early Warning at schools in Fayette, Erie and Dauphin counties during the 2012-2013 academic year. Pennsylvania’s four-year cohort graduation rate as of the 2012-13 school year was 86 percent, up from 84 percent in 2011-12, although the increase was not directly attributed to the program.
Students who fail to graduate high school face personal economic hardship and impose a significant cost on their communities and to society, the state reported. A high school dropout earns $1 million less than a college graduate throughout their lifetime, it said.
During his or her life, the department also noted, dropouts can cost the public sector $209,100 per year through use of public assistance and the corrections system.