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'Best Bet' Dropout Strategies Are Outlined

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Washington--The Education Department, in conjunction with its Urban Superintendents Network, has issued a report identifying six dropout-prevention strategies as the "best bets" for tackling the problem.

The 76-page booklet details efforts under way in the 32 school districts whose superintendents are members of the network. But it also suggests that the scope of the problem requires more comprehensive solutions that include agencies beyond the public schools.

In the 1985-86 school year, the report states, 682,000 high-school students dropped out--an average of 3,789 each school day.

In addition to its "devastating human toll," the report notes, the dropout phenomenon also costs billions in lost tax revenues and in additional correctional and social services.

"We don't claim to have the magic formula for keeping kids in school," said Everett J. Williams, superintendent of schools in New Orleans. "But we think these strategies might work."

Mr. Williams was one of several of the urban superintendents to attend a press conference here announcing the report's release.

The "best bets" outlined in the booklet are:

Early intervention. "Intervention during the formative years can well be the key to [dropout] prevention," said Lillian Barna, superintendent of schools in Albuquerque. "Building self-confidence and parent support are more attainable goals during the preschool years."

A positive school climate. The report cites effective-schools research showing that the best learning climates combine: "strong, committed leaders; autonomy to make decisions; a stable staff receiving support and sufficient ongoing training; good student-teacher relationships; orderly classrooms; and a challenging and appropriate curriculum."

High expectations. "The human spirit responds to challenge, and young people generally rise to the level expected of them," said Herb A. Sang, superintendent of schools in Duval County, Fla.

Strong teachers. "The urban school superintendents believe that teacher-training institutions must develop top-quality programs, only admit students with strong academic credentials, and refuse to graduate students who aren't prepared for the challenges of the classroom," the report states.

A broad range of instructional programs. "Some students require more time than others, or special treatment, to master their8coursework," according to the report. Districts should provide flexible offerings, it says, including schools of choice, bilingual and compensatory-education programs, and options for students who may need or benefit from work experience.

Collaborative efforts. "Parents, the juvenile-justice system, religious organizations, social-service agencies, youth-employment and training programs, policymakers, businesses, and industry can each offer invaluable expertise and resources," the report notes.

Copies of the new publication, "Dealing With Dropouts: The Urban Superintendents' Call to Action," can be purchased through the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. Information on single and bulk-rate prices is available by phone at (202) 783-3238.


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