Forum told that community engagement is critical to turning around dropout rates

Sep 25, 2012

This story is part of the Innovation Trail's partnership with FRONTLINE's Dropout Nation. You can read the other reports here.

At a panel held in Rochester last night as part of the America Graduate project, participants in the forum said that some students may not excel in academics, but that doesn't mean they can't graduate, it just means their other talents must become the focus.

The forum also suggested that targeting the interests of students may engage them more and make school a more attractive choice.

Rochester's schools are battling with a dropout rate of 22 per cent.

Panel member Dr. David Hursh from the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester says the standardized tests often used aren't always the right measure of the level of standards a student is at.

We live in an age where there is an increasing number of high stakes standardized tests being given to students and they're being used for all sorts of purposes. The concern that I have is that high stakes testing does not necessarily lead to higher standards which is one of the assumptions that's made.

Panel members stressed that in and outside the classroom, an extended support network for students at risk of dropping out can go a long way to getting them back on the right track. 

Community Development Director at Rochester's Freedom School, Jeremy Smith, says teachers need to know how to relate to each individual kid, despite gender, race or culture and that the community needs to help that happen. 

Civic responsibility, community engagement is very important and the schools and the communities have to connect. If the schools and the communities get on the same page about saving that child and believing that it is a village and that we're a part of that village. I think you will see a tremendous change in our education rates.

Support for Innovation Trail's American Graduate initiative comes from Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection.