Maryland Education Department dropout prevention guide serves as model for other states

By Julie Cushing

Feb 23, 2012

A common and problematic feature of American school systems is a one-size-fits-all route to graduation. Maryland’s state educators are looking to change that, however. In an effort to lower the prevalence of dropouts, the Maryland State Board of Education has created and released the Dropout Prevention School Completion Intervention Resource Guide.

The Guide outlines a variety of alternative education options, and identifies what former practices have successfully worked to keep students at risk of dropping out in school. There are six key factors that the Board identified as essential to maintaining these at-risk teens:

  • Utilize data systems that support realistic diagnosis of the number of students who drop out and help identify individual students at high risk of dropping out (diagnostic)
  • Assign adult advocates to students at-risk of dropping out (targeted intervention)
  • Provide academic support and enrichment to improve academic performance (targeted intervention)
  • Implement programs to improve students’ classroom behavior and social skills (targeted intervention)
  • Personalize the learning environment and instructional process (school wide intervention)
  • Provide rigorous and relevant instruction to better engage students in learning and provide the skills needed to graduate and to serve them after they leave school (school wide intervention).

These six steps are only a basic outline of what Maryland has in mind, however. The report goes on to suggest ways to better place students based on ability level, evaluate a school’s own handling of at-risk students, and how to better identify those at risk.

In addition, a team of educators contributed to the report a set of Alternative Standards. The new Standards outline various ways to reach and teach children who don’t get the most out of the regular Maryland Standards. This innovative plan to help all children succeed is an important step forward on the road to achieving a 100 percent graduation rate.