Only by working together can schools, nonprofits, businesses and the local government provide the resources—especially the people and ideas—necessary to begin and sustain significant change. Your community will need to build and sustain a broad coalition if you are going to make substantial progress in raising local graduation rates.
The community’s critical role
For too long schools and school districts have been held responsible (along with parents and the students themselves) for raising graduation rates. In reality, communities have a central role in responding to the dropout crisis. They need to help make students ready for kindergarten, support students and parents once the school years begin and continue to support them through graduation and beyond. The entire community benefits from a strong education system, and so the community shares the responsibility of graduating students who are prepared for college, careers and life.
Community members can make a great start on this work by analyzing the whole range of resources available to support students in and out of school. What resources exist? Are they effective and available? Which ones are needed? Can the community encourage students to participate?
Communities can also lead the charge in examining existing policies and practices around attendance, discipline, grading, grade promotion, and the legal dropout age to see if they are supportive of graduating all students prepared for the advanced learning now required to earn a family-supporting wage and achieve adult success.
Communities can help gather the support needed to transform the middle and high schools through which most dropouts pass.
Communities can also support a long-term reform effort to enable all students to graduate from high school prepared for college and career.
The vitality of American society depends on the strength of its communities, and a community’s well-being relies on the well-being of all its members, especially students. Therefore, it is critical that community members work together with schools to complete this important work.