A local non-profit wants students to graduate high school. Communities in Schools which focuses on schools in Allegheny County had a meeting in Oakland on Thursday where educators discussed plans to help students graduate.
The national drop-out rate is between 30 to 50 percent. The numbers are reflected in Pittsburgh schools. "In other school districts in Allegheny County the numbers vary widely- some have 1 to 2 percent dropout rate but mostly it hovers around 18 to 20 percent," said Nicole Molinaro, Executive Director of Communities in Schools, quoting a 2006 RAND Corporation study.
After their giant brainstorming session last year, they came up with a plan to help students graduate which consists of immediate intervention, to help students who are on the verge of graduating but are missing a few credits or have had to take some time off. "Oftentimes they need some adult guidance, but the schools are so overburdened that the guidance doesn't happen," said Molinaro. They are specifically working with about 70 students at different local high schools. They are also employing peer mentors, working on policy development issues and working on early intervention.
"Dropping out is a long process, it doesn't just happen overnight," said Molinaro, "Oftentimes if a student can't read by 3rd grade, they start the disengagement process, because reading is such a part of everything, not just English but math and science as well."
Molinaro says that if a student dropped out of school 40 years ago they would be able to find decent work at a factory or a steel mill. This is no longer the case. There is a dearth of well-paying jobs that require minimal education.
"We believe that the numbers have remained about steady over the years but what has changed is the world. So the world 40 years ago is much different than it is today. So the same number of kids dropped out of high school then it wouldn't have been as big as a deal. But now its a huge deal," said Molinaro.