Jefferson County Public Schools officials support raising the district’s dropout age to 18 and they want to move forward with approval soon.
Currently, students can drop out of school at age 16 with parental permission. But the General Assembly has passed legislation that would give local school districts the option to change that.
It’s a decision JCPS has openly supported on its legislative agenda for the past two years, says Superintendent Donna Hargens.
In JCPS, 1,057 students dropped out of high school in 2011, according to district officials. With a high school enrollment of 28,445 that makes the dropout rate around 3.72.
Hargens says changing the drop out age will allow JCPS to review its strategies identifying at-risk students, who might otherwise drop out, she says. This could include looking at the district’s interventions for students before they reach high school, when the majority of the students dropping out leave the system.
“You may physically drop out in high school, but if you entered high school with incredible learning gaps which present incredible challenges to keeping up with the course work, then in essence that intervention point was a lot earlier on than high school,” Hargens says.
Hargens says JCPS may consider developing new strategies to give students more options outside the traditional learning environment. That could include encouraging more online or alternative options.
Further, she says the district will continue looking at programs and interventions that may not be working.
“We also need to abandon things we’ve been trying that haven’t been working,” she says.
JCPS board members are also showing support of raising the dropout age. At Monday’s board meeting, District 7’s Chris Brady asked that JCPS move quickly to adopt the change.
“I would love for us to be the first district to adopt this measure,” he says.
JCPS board member David Jones Jr. wrote in an email to WFPL: “I strongly favor raising the dropout age to 18, believe my colleagues support this as well, and expect that we’ll vote to approve ASAP.”
The bill still needs the signature of Gov. Steve Beshear, who has praised the passage of the bill.
UPDATE: The bill as written, would allow districts to raise the dropout at to 18 beginning the 2015-2016 school year.