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Helping teens in and out of school

September 29, 2009

Re "Dropouts cost the state $1.1 billion, study finds," Sept. 24

It is nearly useless to attempt to stem dropouts at the high school level.

The problem starts long before and usually reaches a pinnacle in middle school, from which students can "graduate" to high school without passing their classes.

Once students arrive at high school without the skills they need, they are then forced into college-track classes, such as Algebra 2, even though many jobs in the new economy either don't require such classes or require more specialized classes, which of course are not offered in many LAUSD schools.

The real issue is the irrelevancy of the education being offered to students.

Crime does not stem simply from not graduating but from deeper, more systemic issues.

To simplify it down to a dropout rate is to obscure deeper solutions that need to be made to the structure of school itself.

Barbara Stam

Tujunga

::

You should investigate the logic of this dropout issue and interview teachers in states where students are not allowed to drop out of school until, say, age 17.

The fact that "dropouts commit crime" does not mean that "those kids, if they do not drop out, will not commit crimes."

Forcing them to attend already overcrowded schools does mean that the quality of education for the other kids in the class will suffer.

J.A. Dane

South Pasadena

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Good article. Expect the dropout rate to increase, though, in the next couple of years because of a lack of money for interventions.

I am a high school teacher in Fontana, and last year we implemented a program that substantially lowered our dropout rate. You would think this program would be back this school year, but it isn't -- because the district says it doesn't have the money for it.

Our program worked because we worked one-on-one with the dropouts and put them in positions where they could flourish.

It will be interesting to see how the crime statistics and dropout rate correlate in the next couple of years with successful intervention programs being cut.

Mike Luszeck

Yucaipa, Calif.

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Everyone needs to be on the same page.

For instance, at at least one area high school, students are regularly suspended at finals. Then they fail, give up or drop out.

Already at risk, this approach contributes to the dropout rate. It is a behind-the-scenes mechanism for getting rid of troublemakers.

School administrators have a tough job in overcrowded schools, but they are also part of the problem.

Nan Tavella

Los Angeles

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Even though the well-intentioned SB 651, requiring a yearly report on student dropout numbers and indicators, has been passed in the state Senate, it seems to me that our money should go to programs that train dropouts to provide useful services to society.

We cannot afford a "free ride" for dropouts.

By the time the at-risk child gets to high school, alternative social programs should be in place for entrance at dropout time.

These children must learn to be productive citizens, along with their counterparts who graduate from high school.

I would also like to see some of the billion-plus dollars now spent on law enforcement and juvenile incarceration put into programs that could generate more positive outcomes.

Katharine Paull

Kagel Canyon

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