I don’t understand what part of “it isn’t working in other states” the governor does not understand, but it’s reported that Kentucky’s governor, Steve Beshear, is again going to propose legislation to raise the minimum high school dropout age in the state to 18.
I researched the performance of Age 18 legislation in 14 states and Washington, DC that have had such a rule for a significant number of years.
This graph shows what I found.
In general, in most of these states with significant Age 18 experience, the trend in high school graduation rates has been worse than the overall national average trend.
I repeated this research again when the 2009 graduation rate data came out, and nothing really changed for these 15 education jurisdictions.
In other words, just raising the minimum age to drop out to 18 does not improve graduation rates. It just means kids drop out at an older age.
But, if we keep them in school longer, we will have to find classroom space for these kids, and there are a ton of them, a lot more than the state has ever wanted to officially admit. So, enacting Age 18 legislation could require new school construction at a time when the state budget is in crisis and many aging school buildings are on hold for repair or replacement.
We will also need more teachers, as well. They don’t come cheap, either.
The governor should know all of that, of course.
Now, if we really want to solve the dropout problem, we must find ways to reignite interest in kids who have become disheartened and turned off by our existing schools. Forcing them to stay inside the school walls is no way to do that.
Creating innovative charter schools could help, as it has done in places like Chicago, Boston and New York City.
Getting really creative with digital learning programs can help, too.
But, turning schools into Age 18 stalags is unlikely to do anything more than create problems like more super frustrated and angry teens. And, after what recently happened in Connecticut, creating frustrated and angry teens is the last thing Kentucky needs.