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New Program for PA Schools Aims to Prevent Dropouts

According to the state Department of Education, a high school dropout earns $1 million less than a college graduate over a lifetime, so to aid students in the long run Pennsylvania school districts were invited to participate in a new voluntary program aimed at preventing middle schoolers from developing habits that could eventually lead to them dropping out.  

35 school districts and charter schools in 23 counties will participate in the Early Warning System and Interventions Catalog for this school year.

“It’s a sophisticated software program that tracks students in what we’re calling early warning indicators which are attendance, behavior and course performance,” said First Lady Susan Corbett, who has been working to prevent dropouts as one of her initiatives, Opening Doors.

Albert Gallatin Area School District in Fayette County, Erie School District in Erie County and Harrisburg School District in Dauphin County have already been testing the program since the 2012-2013 school year. As of the 2011-2012 school year the graduation rate was 84% in Pennsylvania, and increased a year later to 86%.

“The research shows that if you can identify a child who is at risk for dropping out of school, and provide an appropriate intervention, the chances that they will graduate go from 20% up to 75%,” said Corbett.

Central Cambria School District is planning on implementing the program despite having a 0.76 percent dropout rate for the 2012-2013 school year.  The district's "cohort" rate, which measures what portion of a group of student leave school over a period of time, was 3.05 percent.

“It is free so it’s basically a resource that otherwise we may have needed to pay for, and … it’s another resource that allows us to target that population of students that is at risk of not competing high school,” said Principal of Central Cambria Middle School, Chris Santini.

The program is paid for through grants, federal funding and donations for all school districts and charter schools. 

Jess was accepted as a WESA fellow in the news department in January 2014. The Erie, PA native attends Duquesne University where she has a double major--broadcast journalism and political science. Following her anticipated graduation in May 2015, she plans to enter law school or begin a career in broadcast journalism.
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