Each year, a reported 1.3 million high school students drop out of school, a number so high that many experts say addressing it is one of the biggest problems facing American education today.
“There isn’t one reason students drop out,” says Wes Moore, an author and Army veteran. “There’s a collection of reasons- kids just don’t feel engaged and a lot of times there is a family situation.”
On Saturday, Moore will host American Graduate Day 2014, an all day broadcast that will air on PBS stations across the country. Throughout the day, the broadcast will highlight educational success stories and feature guest appearances from celebrities including Tony Bennett, Ingrid Michaelson, Sesame Street’s Elmo and Allison Williams.
We talked to Moore about what communities can do to support at-risk students.
Support former students
“One thing we can do is be creative,” says Moore. He notes that many dropouts struggle with unemployment and a lack of support. Two ways to combat those problems is to invest in work training programs geared towards dropouts and to create relationships with colleges that could integrate these students into their programs.
Be a good mentor
“We have a lot of kids who don’t have families or support systems,” says Moore. Mentoring programs and strong relationships with teachers can be crucial to keeping students on track to graduate. “Even if it’s not your blood family they can turn into your family,” says Moore.
End “dropout factories”
Researchers define so-called “dropout factories” as high schools where students have as much of a chance of dropping out as they do of graduating, says Moore. “We have to be able to raise expectations,” says Moore. “We have these low expectations of what these stdents are capable of.”
Invest in the future
“If you look at the 21st century economy, if [a few years of high school] is the only education you have, that’s not enough,” notes Moore.
Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.