With the governor hot to waste a lot of legislative time on a proposal to raise the minimum high school dropout age to 18, I thought it would be worthwhile to outline some of the extensive evidence that this idea does not create better high school graduation rates.
In “Will increasing Kentucky’s minimum high school dropout age to 18 improve high school graduation rates – Updated,” I introduced my own analysis of the trends in high school graduation rates in 14 states and the District of Columbia that had the law in place long enough to develop notable trend data. The results in these 15 educational jurisdictions showed that the Age 18 law had not led to notable graduation rate performance. In fact, graduation rates actually were declining in nearly half of these educational jurisdictions.
Shortly after I did the analysis above, the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Research released the 2009 graduation rate data, and I provided everyone an updated analysis in “New data still raises questions about raising dropout age to 18.” Having an additional year of data changed nothing. Age 18 still wasn’t working.
It was interesting that Governor Beshear recently claimed that our existing school systems had enough resources to handle the kids who would be trapped in school by the Age 18 ruling. That does not exactly agree with comments made by Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday, as I point out in “If kids are forced to stay in school, will they just be ‘warehoused?’” Holliday indicated there are a lot of unknowns about how well our alternative programs are really working. Absent such information, how can we know if we have the right programs, and enough of them, in place?
I made an estimate of the extra resources we would need to serve the thousands of extra students who would be trapped in our schools against their will with an Age 18 law in “Bluegrass Institute age 18 dropout research cited.” The governor says we have the resources. I doubt that. I estimate we need around $166 million more, about half coming directly from state sources, to support the thousands of extra students that would be trapped in schools by Age 18 legislation. And, that estimate does not include any costs for possible extra facilities construction that might be required.
In “New high school graduation study provides still more evidence: Minimum Age 18 for dropping out does not matter” I cited work from other researchers at the America’s Promise Alliance which shows states with the highest increases in high school graduation rates tended to have an Age 16 dropout law and, more importantly, the states with the largest DECREASE in high school graduation rates tended to be Age 18 states.
None of the comments above should be taken as my approval of anyone dropping out of school – far from it! In fact, I was credited years ago by the education analyst at the Kentucky School Boards Association for being one of the first in Kentucky to draw attention to our deplorable graduation rate situation.
However, having looked at this for a while, I understand that just trapping kids in school for more years will probably do little more than change dropouts at the age of 16 into dropouts at the age of 18. The students will still be seriously under-educated, and little, if anything will be gained. In fact, by forcing these kids to stay in school instead of putting a serious focus on finding ways to entice them to want to stay will probably just cause more disruption in classrooms and maybe even worse mayhem.
And, as I must point out again, we don’t need more seriously disgruntled youngsters causing mayhem in our schools. That can lead to tragedies such as recently happened in Connecticut.