Finding Ways to Keep Students in School

Last Updated: February 23, 2012

This article appeared in the February 2012 Rural Policy Matters.

Editor's note: Links are free and current at time of posting, but may require registration or expire over time.

As consensus grows around the need to improve graduation rates, states are attempting to implement both intrinsic and extrinsic supports to prevent students from dropping out.

Policies and practices of schools can either create intrinsic incentives for dropping out or for remaining in school. One of the strongest predictors of dropout is whether a student receives harsh discipline at school that removes him or her from the learning environment. Some states are reforming their discipline codes to force reductions in suspension and expulsion rates. (See a partial compilation of previous RPM coverage here.)

One new initiative that could prove promising for rural districts is being proposed in Maryland, where the state Board of Education will ask districts to come up with their own plan to reduce nonviolent offenses in the next three years and specifically to reduce the number of suspensions of special education and minority students. Read more here.

Extrinsic factors can also work to reduce the dropout rate, and one that has been much-discussed lately is increasing the age at which students can legally drop out of school. Currently 21 states have set the age at 18, and a number of states have introduced legislation to do the same.

President Obama included the recommendation in this year’s State of the Union address. Some debate remains about the effectiveness of this approach to reducing dropout rates. Education and community stakeholders agree that this measure must be accompanied by other policy changes that not only force students to be in school but that make school a place where students want to be because they are engaged in meaningful learning experiences.

Read more:

National Council of State Legislatures Dropout Task Force Report:

Read more from the February 2012 Rural Policy Matters.