Let’s prevent students from dropping out

The following article was sent to the Reporter by 8th Grade Class 303 at the Richard J. Murphy K-8 School:

Standing at the door looking into a random Boston Public Schools classroom as the teacher scrawls intently on the board, three of the twenty young faces that you see looking back at you will drop out of high school before their graduation day.

A high dropout rate is a contributing factor to gang violence in Dorchester, which is something that the students at Richard J. Murphy K-8 are preoccupied with as they grow up. One student describes seeing gang members with weapons gathering in a park he used to frequent as a child, but where he no longer feels safe.

Poor performance in schools, including of course, dropouts, is a major predictive risk factor for gang affiliation. The US Department of Justice identifies strong schools as a major component of a comprehensive gang prevention strategy. As far as major urban school systems go, Boston does a fairly good job at maintaining a low dropout rate. But the 15 percent figure leaves a lot of room for improvement.

In January of this year, House Bill 2056 and Senate Bill 222 were introduced in the Massachusetts Legislature in an attempt to reduce dropouts statewide. The bills, whose aim is attempt to combat high school dropouts by strengthening early education and establishing dropout prevention and recovery programs for at-risk students, currently sit before the Joint Committee on Education.

The programs that the bills would establish fight dropouts by supporting at-risk students and extending a lifeline to those who have already decided to leave. A major part of the support system is a corps of graduation coaches who are trained to guide students who may be struggling academically.

At Murphy, the students talk about the value of guidance counselors, but feel that time with them is too limited. Graduation coaches would give one-on-one support to those who need it most. The bills also specifically support expectant parents, a group that tends to leave in droves. For those already out, school systems would provide enhanced alternative and professional education to support them in their post-school lives.

We strongly encourage readers to support these bills by contacting your state representative and the members of the Joint Committee on Education. Your voice matters, just as the voices of the students at Murphy matter.