While questions swirl around bills to raise the minimum high school dropout age in Kentucky to 18, there are other serious questions about what will happen to kids who want to drop out if they are forced to stay in school.
The programs that would absorb most of the want-to-dropouts are collectively known as ‘alternative education,’ and there are a large number of such programs operating now across the state.
The problem is that there currently is virtually no reporting information about the performance of these systems. With over 70,000 students statewide in alternative settings, that is obviously a very serious information gap.
I want to point out that I have heard presentations in Frankfort about high performing alternative programs. Certainly, I am a big fan of the statewide digital learning alternative called the Barren Academy of Virtual and Expanded Learning. However, the vast majority of alternative programs in Kentucky have no testing or graduation rate information publicly available, and comments from Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday to CN|2 make it clear that the Kentucky Department of Education doesn’t know nearly enough about alternative program performance, either.
Holliday is working on changing that, but it may require regulatory and possibly legislative action to finally get the data on which programs perform – and which are nothing more than holding tanks.
And, before we involuntarily force ‘wanna-dropouts’ into the state’s network of alternative education settings, we need to figure out if that coercive action will really benefit those kids.