New research on lowering high school dropout rates

To protect students from the risk of dropping out of high school, start by helping them when they are in elementary school.

That’s the finding of a new brief that updates earlier findings done by researchers at the Center for Optimized Student Support in Boston College’s Lynch School of Education.

The brief — “Reducing High School Dropout through Elementary School Student Support: An Analysis Including Important Student Subgroups” – explains:

“Students who attended elementary schools implementing City Connects beginning in kindergarten or first grade are less likely to drop out of school in high school than comparison students (those who never attended a City Connects school).”

This finding also holds true for African-American and Latino boys who have higher dropout rates.

Completing high school has a huge impact on both students and their communities.

A few of the key cost benefits:

“If an entire district experienced drop-out at a rate similar to that of City Connects students, for a cohort of 5,000 students, approximately 370 fewer students would have dropped out of high school.”

“A conservative estimate of the benefit is $127,000 per graduate.”

“Assuming this estimate, if a district with a cohort of 5,000 had experienced drop-out at a rate similar to City Connects students, the public benefit would have exceeded $45 million.”

For African-American and Latino boys:

“The cumulative percentage of Black and Latino male students who drop out across the four years of high school is substantially lower for students who attended an elementary school implementing City Connects starting in kindergarten or first grade than for those who never attended a City Connects school (over 50% lower for Black male students and over 66% lower for Latino male students).”

The study has important implications. Because poverty is “a major contributor” to the academic achievement gap, it’s essential to protect children from poverty’s effects. The brief concludes:

“Providing the right customized services and enrichments through a system within the elementary school makes a difference much later, improving school completion. These positive findings hold true for student subgroups that are particularly vulnerable for high school drop-out, including Black and Latino males.”

In addition: “While many policy efforts targeting school drop-out focus on high school students, this study shows that intervention at much younger ages is warranted.”

By starting early, City Connects is equipping young children to grow into high school graduates.

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