TOLEDO, Ohio – How many students is an acceptable number to let drop out of Toledo high schools? One? Twenty? Fifty? One hundred? One thousand?
No matter your opinion, kids are dropping out of high school at an alarming rate, and United Way is teaming up with America’s Promise Alliance in a continuing effort to attack the problem here in Toledo.
According to Bill Kitson, United Way of Greater Toledo President & CEO, America’s Promise Alliance awarded 105 grants nationwide to sponsor Dropout Prevention Summits, and United Way was chosen as Toledo’s organizer.
“One of United Way’s strengths is the ability to convene key players around the table, so we brought a diverse group together Thursday to deepen the discussion of graduation rates,” Kitson said. “Our goal was to come away from the day with ideas and recommendations for strong long-term solutions to continue attacking this issue and I think we accomplished that.”
The Summit included a wide range of representatives from sectors across the community including educators, parents, students, businesses, nonprofits, juvenile justice, government, and faith-based organizations because it affects every aspect of our community.
“Studies find when students drop out of school, it affects local median incomes, tax revenue, the availability of a qualified workforce, crime rates, healthcare, and increases the general strain on the social service system,” said Bob LaClair, president & CEO of Fifth Third Bank (Northwestern Ohio). “Improving graduation rates is a must if Toledo is to move forward as a community.”
One of the nonprofits that participated in the Summit and is working on this issue continuously is the Greater Toledo Urban League (GTUL).
“One of our areas of focus is closing the achievement gap in Toledo schools,” said John Jones, GTUL President & CEO. “The high number of black and Latino males not graduating is disproportionate to the overall number of students not graduating. We’re working to collaborate on ways to reengage and guide those students to success.”
Another participant in the Summit was the Lucas County Juvenile Courts.
“Students almost always show signs of trouble far before they hit the juvenile justice system,” said Dan Pompa, court administrator for the Lucas County Juvenile Courts, “and we need to find ways to catch them sooner. Once they’re involved in gangs, violence, or other crimes, it’s not easy to reengage them in school.”
According to America’s Promise Alliance, nationally,
· More than one million high school students drop out of high school every year.
· That’s 7,000 every day. One every 26 seconds.
· Only half of black and Latino young men are graduating on time.
On a more local level, the U.S. Department of Education puts Ohio’s graduation rate at 79 percent and the Ohio Department of Education (which uses different reporting standards from the U.S. Department of Education) calculates Toledo’s graduation rate at 86.6 percent for the same 2007/08 school year.
“One of the problems we have when looking at the issue of dropouts is simply getting accurate data,” Kitson continued. “Different states use different measurements and beyond that, many of the reporting standards have serious flaws. Because of these inconsistencies, we believe Toledo’s real graduation rate falls well below the reported 86 percent.”
However, new uniform reporting standards are coming. All states have made a collaborative agreement to convert to the reporting standards created by the National Governors’ Association. These standards will yield a more accurate statistic of kids graduating from high school on time.
“The bottom line is it’s a problem if even one student slips through the cracks,” Kitson concluded. “This is a community issue and we need everyone to reach out a hand. Mentor a child; tutor a teen; get involved in the conversation. Join us as we attack this problem at the root causes.”
United Way of Greater Toledo creates lasting change by addressing the underlying causes of the most significant local issues and by bringing together a broad range of financial and human resources. United Way supports community services that are accountable for delivering measurable results and advancing the common good.