U-235 board to discuss dropout rule changes

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

UNIONTOWN -- The matter of how and when a student can choose to drop out of school will be up for approval by the USD 235 Board of Education on Monday.

The board plans to consider approval of an update in a statewide district policy concerning procedures administrators must follow when a student drops out of school before turning 18 years of age. The board will vote on this compulsory attendance policy update and other matters during their regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Uniontown Junior Senior High School commons area, 601 Fifth St.

According to state law known as K.S.A. 72-1111, students who are 16 or 17 years of age may leave school, but they must first obtain consent from a parent or guardian, among other criteria, USD 235 Superintendent Randy Rockhold said.

"Any student who wants to drop out of school by the age of 16, they can, but they have to have parental consent first," Rockhold said.

In response to several calls from high school principals and counselors in school districts across the state concerning the student attendance policy, Kansas State Department of Education officials have said that any student who is 16 or 17 years of age may be exempt from compulsory attendance requirements in the district, if the student meets certain criteria, a KSDE statement said.

In order to be exempt from attendance requirements, a student must be regularly enrolled in a program recognized by the local board of education as an approved alternative educational program. The student and his or her parent or guardian must also attend a final counseling session in which the student is encouraged to remain in school or to pursue other educational alternatives.

A student can also be deemed exempt if a signed court order is presented to the district, according to the KSDE statement.

During that session, the student and parent or guardian must sign a disclaimer that states other education alternatives suggested by school administrators. The disclaimer also includes information regarding the academic skills that the student has not yet achieved, such as reading, writing and problem solving skills; the difference in future earning power between a high school graduate and a high school dropout; and a listing of educational choices that are available for the student, the KSDE statement said.

School officials can also use numbers, such as lifetime earnings figures, during counseling sessions to persuade students to remain in school to get an education, the KSDE statement said.

According to a U.S. Census Bureau report in 2006, the annual median earnings of a full-time year-round worker over the age of 25 who has dropped out of high school is $23,400, compared to about $31,500 in annual earnings for a person who has graduated from high school or earned a general equivalency diploma. The annual earnings of a person who has earned a bachelors degree is $50,900. A person with a professional degree will earn about $100,000 per year, according to the census.

A Bureau of Labor Statistics report in 2006 said that a person who does not graduate from high school will earn about $941,000 over the course of his or her lifetime, compared to about $1.3 million for a person who graduates from high school or earns a GED. A person who earns a bachelors degree will earn a little more than $2 million over his or her lifetime, while a person who earns a professional degree will make about $3.7 million, the report said.

The unemployment rate for a high school dropout in 2006 was 6.8 percent, compared to 4.3 percent for a high school graduate or GED recipient; 2.3 percent for a person who earns a bachelors degree; and 1.1 percent for a person who obtains a professional degree, the report said.

More information on the analysis can be found online at http://stats.bls.gov/emp/emptab7.htm. The information can also be used in the final counseling session with a student who is contemplating dropping out of school, the KSDE statement said.

More information on the state law concerning compulsory student attendance can be found online at www3.ksde.org.

On Monday, the board also plans to consider approving the purchase of a service called the School Reach Calling Plan, a computer-driven telephone and e-mail system that will notify all students, parents, faculty and staff in the district of a school cancellation in the event of bad weather, a natural disaster, or other emergency situation. The system will notify everyone in the district at the same time by telephone and e-mail, within just a few minutes.

The server-based system will be password operated, so only district officials will be able to access the system to inform the public of an emergency situation.

The district plans to implement the program immediately upon approval by the board, Rockhold said.

"It will be a really good communication tool," he said.