Mixed reaction to raising Kentucky dropout age - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Mixed reaction to raising Kentucky dropout age

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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- A push from Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear to raise the dropout age draws mixed reviews on how it will affect schools. 

Some the stories behind the students at Jefferson County High School explain the reasoning behind the proposed change:

19-year-old student Zachary Sullivan says, "My situation, I kind of got behind."

"During my senior year at Atherton," says 19-year-old student Caitlin Toole, "I got pregnant and dropped out to work for a little while, then I came back."

18-year-old student Casey West explains, "I had family problems, that was what was driving it, and I just spiraled it into action and I dropped out when I was 16. I just didn't go back."

But these students have a second chance to work at their own pace, around their individual circumstances, to earn a high school diploma.  Jefferson Co. High School Principal Jerry Keepers tells WDRB 's Gilbert Corsey, "As they progress, they take a test on each unit and if they don't pass they have to go back."

English teacher Carrie Turpen explains, "I would say either 75 percent of the students here were either dropouts or heading toward dropping out.

House Bill 216 aims to take away that option.  It would gradually raise the minimum dropout age in Kentucky from 16 to 18 by July 2017.

It passed the House Education Committee this week with the governor's support, but similar bills have failed.

Principal Keepers says, "I think it's going to have some adverse effects on some of the schools."  Those effects include taking teachers' time and attention in favor of students who don't want to learn.  There's also fear that forcing students to stay in school will drive down state test scores.

"Probably so," says Turpen, "but I think that test scores are just one of several things that are important."

Jefferson County's dropout rate is about 4.6 percent, which in 2010 meant 1,386 students dropping out.  Teachers say despite the potential drawbacks they can support the bill, believing more students like Casey will end up in more programs like this.

"Now I realize that I need to make something of myself," says Casey West.

Representatives Jeff Greer of Brandenburg and Reginald Meeks of Louisville sponsored House Bill 216.  It now goes to the full House for consideration.

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