Don't Quit On Me: What Young People Who Left School Say About The Power Of Relationships

Children and Youth;Education and Literacy

Don't Quit On Me: What Young People Who Left School Say About The Power Of Relationships

This report examines, from the perspective of young people themselves, the roles that relationships with adults and peers play in decisions about staying in, leaving and returning to high school. Building on previous studies, including last year's "Don't Call Them Dropouts," this report offers new insights about how support from adults and peers can help to close the remaining gaps between those who graduate from high school on time and those who don't.

September 2015

Geographic Focus: North America-United States

High Leverage Strategies to Address America's Dropout Crisis: A Guide for Funders

Children and Youth, Education and Literacy

High Leverage Strategies to Address America's Dropout Crisis: A Guide for Funders

This guide is designed to help foundations identify investment opportunities that will have the greatest value in advancing efforts to increase graduation rates. There are many different approaches to increase the graduation rate, ranging from early learning opportunities to youth employment programs. Although members of YTFG make investments all along this continuum, our collaborative work has been to stem the tide of young people flowing out of our high schools without a diploma. The recommendations in this guide are based on our collective experiences as we work to increase the graduation rates of struggling students and those who fall off track to graduation.

Geographic Focus: North America-United States

Act Out, Get Out? Considering the Impact of School Discipline Practices in Massachusetts

Children and Youth, Education and Literacy

Act Out, Get Out? Considering the Impact of School Discipline Practices in Massachusetts

Recently, testimony from three public hearings in Massachusetts suggested that excessive disciplinary action for non-violent offenses, such as tardiness and truancy, exacerbates the dropout crisis. Testimony indicated that students already behind in school are often forced to miss additional days through suspensions, which leads to a loss of credits and an inability to catch up. Some parents, educators, education stakeholders, and coalitions, including the Massachusetts Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery Commission, have called for a closer look at school discipline policies and practice. Many observers have come to believe that fully understanding the role of discipline is an essential step in tackling the problem of why some Massachusetts students are not staying in school. It is within this context that the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy embarked upon its examination of school discipline in Massachusetts.

Act Out, Get Out? Considering the Impact of School Discipline Practices in Massachusetts reviews why discipline policies are necessary, laws governing these policies, and national research on the effects of disciplinary removal. The brief then describes overall trends in the disciplinary removal (suspensions and expulsions) of Massachusetts public school students over time (school year 2005-2006 through 2008-2009) and findings from a more in-depth analysis of discipline data from the 2007-2008 school year. Key findings from data about the 2007-2008 school year include: 1. For the most serious infractions, those involving illegal substances, violence and criminal activities the most common reason for disciplinary removal is violence; 2. Out-of-school suspension is the most frequently used form of disciplinary removal; 3. The number of disciplinary removals peaks at 9th grade and declines in 10th through 12th grade; 4. Particular segments (low-income, special education, male, black, Hispanic) of the student population are removed at disproportionately high rates.

This policy brief highlights essential questions that need to be answered in order to fully understand how discipline policies are being carried out and to tease out the relationship between disciplinary removal, the achievement gap, and dropping out of public schools in Massachusetts. The final section of the brief puts forth considerations for policymakers and K-12 school and district leaders. The brief suggests there is a need for more detailed and complete record keeping of school discipline data as well as for more schools and districts to implement school-wide preventative approaches and alternative education programs for students who have been removed. The brief also questions the extent to which of out-of-school suspensions are used for non-violent, non-criminal offenses, particularly those for Pre-Kindergarten and Elementary School aged students.

The brief was the subject of discussion at a public event on May 26, 2010.

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Northeastern)-Massachusetts

Executive Summary: Act Out, Get Out? Considering the Impact of School Discipline Practices in Massachusetts

Children and Youth, Education and Literacy

Executive Summary: Act Out, Get Out? Considering the Impact of School Discipline Practices in Massachusetts

Recently, testimony from three public hearings in Massachusetts suggested that excessive disciplinary action for non-violent offenses, such as tardiness and truancy, exacerbates the dropout crisis. Testimony indicated that students already behind in school are often forced to miss additional days through suspensions, which leads to a loss of credits and an inability to catch up. Some parents, educators, education stakeholders, and coalitions, including the Massachusetts Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery Commission, have called for a closer look at school discipline policies and practice. Many observers have come to believe that fully understanding the role of discipline is an essential step in tackling the problem of why some Massachusetts students are not staying in school. It is within this context that the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy embarked upon its examination of school discipline in Massachusetts.

Act Out, Get Out? Considering the Impact of School Discipline Practices in Massachusetts reviews why discipline policies are necessary, laws governing these policies, and national research on the effects of disciplinary removal. The brief then describes overall trends in the disciplinary removal (suspensions and expulsions) of Massachusetts public school students over time (school year 2005-2006 through 2008-2009) and findings from a more in-depth analysis of discipline data from the 2007-2008 school year. Key findings from data about the 2007-2008 school year include: 1. For the most serious infractions, those involving illegal substances, violence and criminal activities the most common reason for disciplinary removal is violence; 2. Out-of-school suspension is the most frequently used form of disciplinary removal; 3. The number of disciplinary removals peaks at 9th grade and declines in 10th through 12th grade; 4. Particular segments (low-income, special education, male, black, Hispanic) of the student population are removed at disproportionately high rates.

This policy brief highlights essential questions that need to be answered in order to fully understand how discipline policies are being carried out and to tease out the relationship between disciplinary removal, the achievement gap, and dropping out of public schools in Massachusetts. The final section of the brief puts forth considerations for policymakers and K-12 school and district leaders. The brief suggests there is a need for more detailed and complete record keeping of school discipline data as well as for more schools and districts to implement school-wide preventative approaches and alternative education programs for students who have been removed. The brief also questions the extent to which of out-of-school suspensions are used for non-violent, non-criminal offenses, particularly those for Pre-Kindergarten and Elementary School aged students.

The brief was the subject of discussion at a public event on May 26, 2010.

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Northeastern)-Massachusetts

Investing in Boys and Young Men of Color: The Promise of Opportunity

Education and Literacy, Men, Race and Ethnicity

Investing in Boys and Young Men of Color: The Promise of Opportunity

This issue brief presents findings from a scan of issues facing boys and men of color in education, health, and pathways to employment. Drawing on discussions, surveys, and interviews with experts and practitioners, the paper identifies 8 pressing concerns and gives accompanying recommendations. Areas that emerge as having great potential for impact are: reforming harsh school discipline, early interventions for dropout prevention, trauma-based mental health interventions, and career training programs.

Geographic Focus: North America-United States

Raise the Age, Lower the Dropout Rate? Considerations for Policymakers

Children and Youth, Education and Literacy, Employment and Labor

Raise the Age, Lower the Dropout Rate? Considerations for Policymakers

In the United States, nearly 1.23 million public school students from the class of 2008 failed to graduate with a diploma. In Massachusetts, 91 students drop out of high school each day. Nationally, and in our state, there has been much recent attention paid to the dropout crisis. One initiative being used by states in their efforts to reduce the dropout rate is to increase the compulsory attendance age to 18. In Massachusetts, the current compulsory attendance age is 16.

The passage of a new law in August 2008 led to the establishment of a state-level Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery Commission in Massachusetts. The Commission is charged with making informed recommendations on ten issues, including whether or not the compulsory attendance age should be raised from 16 to 18.

The Rennie Center's recent policy brief, entitled Raise the Age, Lower the Dropout Rate? Considerations for Policymakers, focuses on the question: Is there empirical evidence to support Massachusetts raising its compulsory school attendance age to 18?

Through an examination of research and analysis of other states' policies, the Rennie Center examines the arguments for and against raising the compulsory age of school attendance to 18 and concludes that there is no credible empirical evidence to support this policy alone as an effective strategy to combat the dropout crisis. The Center argues that prior to considering a raise in the compulsory age of attendance, the Commonwealth should focus its energy and resources on developing policies and programs that research has shown to be successful in helping at-risk students stay in school and persist to earning a diploma.

We recommend the following considerations for policymakers. Our hope is that this information will contribute to the current policy discussions focused on the issue of raising the age of compulsory school attendance in Massachusetts.

  • Consider empirical evidence.
  • Address student disengagement and alienation from school.
  • Improve attendance monitoring and early intervention systems.
  • Increase alternative education options.
  • Examine and consider eliminating some of the existing exemptions that permit 14- and 15-year-olds to leave school prior to graduation.
  • Examine and consider updating the current process for legally leaving school.
  • Examine the fiscal impact of increasing the age of compulsory school attendance, including examination of: the cost of enforcement; funding outreach programs; increasing capacity to serve youth who would return to school; expansion and professional development of teacher workforce; expansion and professional development of school staff.

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