The Challenge

Students across America are dropping out of high school at an alarming rate.

Dropping out of high school has a substantial impact on a young person’s life. Over the course of his or her lifetime, an individual who drops out of high school is more likely to have reduced earning power, greater social service dependency, increased rates of criminal involvement, and shorter life expectancy.

The economic cost associated with dropping out of high school is enormous: the average high school dropout in Massachusetts earns $10,000 less annually than a high school graduate and $34,000 less annually than a college graduate. Meanwhile, high school dropout unemployment rates (9%) are 30% higher than high school diploma earners (6%) and double that of college degree earners (4.5%).

Students drop out of high school for four primary reasons:

  1. Life events such as becoming pregnant, needing to work, or getting arrested create significant barriers to school success.
  2. Students become frustrated or bored and stop seeing the value of high school.
  3. Students are encouraged to leave their school (subtly or explicitly) because they are perceived to be difficult, dangerous, or detrimental to the success of school.
  4. Students who have experienced years of repeated academic failure or have a history of attendance challenges are likely to drop out of school.

Here’s a secret: students who drop out want a chance at high school and college graduation, however, they lack options that will set them up for success. At-risk and disengaged youth seeking to get on the path to high school graduation face two primary options: Alternative Education programs/schools and GED/HiSET programs. Despite the flexibility, research shows that earning a GED/HiSET does not increase one’s economic viability. Alternative Education programs and schools focus on re-engaging students who have dropped out of school or are at high risk of doing so. While these schools provide small class sizes to increase individualized attention, they tend not to challenge students with rigorous academics and college-preparation courses, such as AP or honors.The two most viable options for former dropouts and other students who have not succeeded in traditional schools are really not viable at all.

Simply put, there are not enough high-quality, college-preparatory schools available to serve the thousands of dropouts and struggling students in Massachusetts. The charter school movement, which has significantly altered the educational landscape across the state, is concentrated on younger students. More teachers, more educational leaders, and more schools need to address the pressing needs of older, at-risk youth, and they must start now. We cannot wait any longer to prove it’s possible for all students to succeed…