Education Group Puts Spotlight on Dropout Prevention Programs
Taking aim at the “hidden, national crisis” that consigns nearly five million out-of-school and unemployed young adults to a future locked out of education and family-supporting jobs, Jobs for the Future (JFF), a Boston-based education advocacy group, has called on policy-makers and educators around the country to get behind a diversity of educational dropout prevention programs that successfully connect out-of-school youth with education and put them on a path to further study and solid employment.
In “From the Prison Track to the College Track,” JFF reports on four types of new school programs that effectively move low-income, out-of-school youth, ages 16-24, toward completing high school and postsecondary education and training, and gaining access to real employment opportunities. The programs make school success possible for young people whom the traditional system has failed.
“As a society and as a nation, we must make a commitment to these youth, using the best tools possible to connect them with education and future employment,” said Hilary Pennington, JFF’s chief executive officer. “A more positive future is important for them, but it’s also important for us all, because these young adults are a big part of our future work force. We cannot squander their energies and their talents.”
The report notes that for every 100 students who enter 9th grade, only 67 graduate from high school; just 38 go on to college; and only 18 of the original 100 wind up getting an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. JFF calls for focused national investments in strategies — like those it highlights — that effectively address the nation’s high school and college dropout problems and other such “leaks” in the school-to-employment pipeline.
Pennington said what distinguishes the most successful programs is an acute sense of the “lessons” most out-of-school youth have taken away from school. “Many have come to see secondary school as irrelevant, available jobs as demeaning, and their prospects and choices as diminishing,” she said. “Programs that successfully connect with these young people have to start by understanding that reality.”
The report says that high-school dropouts face an extraordinarily bleak future in today’s economy, which demands an increasingly educated and highly trained work force. In fact, colleges want first-year students to have the same skills that employers seek in entry-level workers — skills such as literacy and the ability to work in a team and communicate well. Yet the education pipeline fails to provide that preparation for vast numbers of youth, the report states. Some young people, the report notes, especially minority and low-income youth, face a greater chance of ending up in a pipeline to prison than to college.
For more information on the programs JFF supports, visit the organization’s Web site <www.jff.org>.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com