Dr. Daniel P. King, superintendent of the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district in South Texas, was recently interviewed by Public School Insights about efforts to reduce the dropout rate in his district. Arriving at the district in 2007, the dropout rate was twice the Texas state average. Within two years, that rate has decreased 75% to half the state average.
In the interview, Dr. King discusses their new College, Career & Technology Academy reaching out to students ages 18-25 who have already dropped out, the reorganization of the high school to identify and support students at risk of dropping out, and some of the challenges in serving this group of students.
Using a districts resources and time to focus on students who’ve fallen behind or dropped out is in some respects an unrewarded endeavor. Dr. King and the district’s efforts shows that young adults who’ve ‘aged out’ of the schools traditional focus are reachable and the work to do so should not be disregarded. A couple highlights from the article:
1) In analyzing the data on dropouts, they identified “a relatively new phenomenon” they called the “twelfth grade bubble [caused by] exit testing and rising standards” with many of the students dropping out lacking fewer than three credits to graduate and/or one to two sections on the exit tests. Read more about this in a previous Public Insight article about the districts efforts.
2) In implementing the new Academy to serve young adults 18-25, they created an intensive community wide recruitment effort. Within a month, they had 220 students at the new campus. Even Dr. King made house calls, which one student attributed to his returning to school saying the “reason he was graduating was because the superintendent went to his house. It sent the message that he was important.”