To convince high school dropouts to give education another chance, school districts first need to find them. That’s why the Boulder Valley School District is one of three districts partnering with Colorado Youth for a Change on a web-based pilot program, Drop In Colorado, that encourages dropouts and those who know them to make contact via text messages.
Posters, stickers, and hangtags urge those who have dropped out to send a text message to Colorado Youth for a Change, which then provides information about an interactive website where they can see their education options—from a GED program, to online programs, to traditional high schools—and connect to outreach specialists.
“It’s an extension of the work we’ve been so dedicated to: ensuring that all students have an opportunity for a high school diploma,” said Deirdre Pilch, Boulder Valley’s assistant superintendent for school leadership. “It’s another strategy for reaching out to some of our kids who still have the possibility of being graduates.”
Boulder Valley has stepped up its dropout prevention efforts in the last few years.
The district’s overall dropout rate fell from 1.5 percent in 2009 to 0.8 percent in 2011. The dropout rate for Hispanic students fell from 4.9 percent in 2009 to 2.9 percent in 2011.
The district’s dropout prevention work includes contracting with Colorado Youth for a Change, an organization focused on dropouts. Colorado Youth for a Change, school administrators, and school counselors use the district’s student data system to identify high-schoolers who are behind on credits needed to graduate and then enroll them in credit-recovery programs.
If students aren’t getting what they need at their “home” high school, the district can offer an alternative program at its Arapahoe campus or an online program that allows students more flexibility.
Colorado Youth for a Change also uses the district’s student contact information to track down those who have already dropped out, calling the student’s cell phone, parents, and anyone else listed.
But about 30 percent of dropouts can’t be found—and those are the teens targeted by the new campaign.
Along with Boulder Valley, Denver Public Schools and Aurora Public Schools are participating in the pilot.
Colorado Youth for a Change founder and CEO Steve Dobo said tracking down dropouts is time consuming and difficult. He’s hoping this campaign will prove to be a simpler, less expensive way to re-engage teens who gave up on school.