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Foundation Sets Second Phase of Dropout Effort

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The Ford Foundation last week awarded grants totaling $2.3 million to help local school-community collaboratives in 21 cities work to reduce the number of student dropouts.

The awards mark the second phase in the foundation's dropout-prevention program, which began in 1986.

The dropout phenomenon is "not simply an internal problem for schools, but a concern of the entire community," Franklin A. Thomas, president of the foundation, said in announcing the grants.

He noted that students drop out for reasons beyond the schools' control--such as pregnancy and poor health--and for reasons within the schools' domain--such as the difficult transition from middle school to high school.

"By drawing on the entire community ... the collaboratives are implementing programs that use in-school and out-of-school resources to meet the social and educational needs of dropout-prone students," said Edward Meade, chief program officer of the foundation's education and culture program.

He said that the foundation's efforts are designed to test whether such collaboratives are a useful tool for "mobilizing and informing and facilitating a community's attempts to reduce the number of dropouts."

An estimated 25 percent of the nation's high-school students do not graduate, according to foundation officials, with the rate exceeding 50 percent in many cities.

Grants ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 will help sustain each collaborative as it begins to implement local programs. These might include training parents to help at-risk students, expanding the use of volunteer tutors, and strengthening the ties between schools and community agencies.

In the first phase of the program, the foundation awarded $1.2 million in grants to help the collaboratives assemble data on dropout rates in their cities, assess the various reasons students leave school, and identify existing school and community resources that could help prevent students from dropping out. The funds also provided technical assistance for the collaboratives, and outside documentation of their work.

In addition to the new round of awards to the cities, the foundation has granted $640,000 to three agencies to provide technical assistance to the collaboratives: the Academy for Educational Development in New York City, the Intercultural Development Research Association in San Antonio, and the Southern Regional Council in Atlanta.

The National Committee for Citizens in Education in Columbia, Md., has received $85,000 to update its Book of Sources on School Dropouts and to produce a Spanish-language version.

The foundation has also awarded $35,000 to the Institutional Development and Economic Affairs Services to field test an interview process for students who are dropping out of school.

The progress of the collaboratives will be documented by a research team at New York Univerity, which is being supported by a $300,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.--lo

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