I was reading the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School’s “Strategic Plan 2014” and noticed that one of its goals is to “increase the number of students who graduate in four years from 66 percent to 90 percent by 2014.”

This is an admirable objective, but it can’t be achieved without community engagement. In other words, we must recognize that this is a community problem and not a just a CMS problem. Then we must work hand-in-hand to effect positive change.

Some sobering facts about students who drop out of high school:

  • They are more likely to be unemployed, in poor health, require public assistance and live in poverty.
  • They are eight times more likely to be in jail or prison.
  • They are more likely to be minorities, and one in four is female.

Along with these come social and economic issues that impact every community.

So, who exactly drops out of school? What are the warning signs? And what can we do?

  • Most students who drop out have given up or do not see the value of a high school education.
  • Most have failing grades, poor attendance, behavior issues, lack motivation, feel pressure to get a job or have to raise a child.
  • Some students drop out because they can’t find the support and encouragement they need to stick it out.
  • Some have behavior or mental issues that go unaddressed because parents and students are not given, or cannot afford, appropriate resources.

The warning signs of a potential dropout start as early as third grade — absenteeism, falling behind academically and behavior issues. All of these can be helped with proper intervention.

Fortunately, there are individuals and organizations working to make a difference.

I met a parent who was excited that her child’s elementary had significantly reduced its truancy rate. Several parents had formed a partnership with the school to contact parents of students who were chronically absent and communicated the importance of school attendance – an early indicator of a potential dropout.

And recently I was introduced to a program called the STARS Math and English Academy (email: elijah@starscharlotte.com), which provides academic enrichment sessions and one-on-one tutoring to students ages 6-14. This program seeks to improve the math, English and reading skills of students who lag by at least two grade levels – an early indicator of a potential dropout.

The National Black Child Development Institute (www.nbcdi.org), of which I am a member, sponsors an annual program for middle school students to encourage them to make college a choice. They partner with a local university to provide parents and students a day of learning and to encourage students to enter high school with college as a goal.

These are just a few examples of people and groups that are making a difference. There are many others, including churches.

They all need our support.
Volunteer to be an advocate for children by supporting current programs in place that encourage students to stay in school, achieve academically and model appropriate behavior.

These organizations need your time and financial support to achieve the level of success required to have an impact on parents and students.

Be a part of the solution by addressing issues in the school system that may be negatively impacting students or areas lacking the appropriate resources. Also, support those working to ensure that parents are taking advantage of available resources, such as free tutoring services.

It will take the entire community — educators, parents, business and community leaders, non-profits and students — to address the dropout crisis.

We can make a difference.

Macie Caldwell is owner of Macie Caldwell Consulting Services (www.maciecaldwell.org), a Charlotte business that provides information, tools and resources to parents, students and organizations to assist in preparing students early for college.

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