JCPS raises dropout age to 18; entire state could follow suit - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS raises dropout age to 18; entire state could follow suit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- In two years, you'll have to be 18 years old and an adult to drop out of high school, legally, in Louisville.  The rule could reach statewide, too.

School boards across the state are rushing to raise the dropout age from 16 to 18, to keep students in school.  JCPS, with its unanimous board vote Monday night, is at least the 79th to do so since the last week of June.

Why the hurry?

Kentucky school boards which vote early are eligible for $10,000 for alternative programs to help the students who might have dropped out at 16 and 17.
If enough districts vote for the increase, 18 will become law throughout Kentucky.

The increase takes effect for the 2015-2016 school year.

"There are some parents who don't always put their children before themselves, and I think this gives those kids courage, if you will, to be able to stay in school, to be able to realize their full potential," said board member Chris Brady.  He called it a "no brainer."

The rule could keep hundreds of 16- and 17-year-old students in class.  School districts could earn more state funding, but they also must consider logistics and paying for special programs to help them.  Board member Linda Duncan asked about challenges of keeping "unmotivated students" in class.

"We want them to stay in school and learn," said JCPS superintendent Donna Hargens. "We think this will be a catalyst for actually doing things better for students and making things more relevant."

There are some parents who don't always put their children before themselves, and I think this gives those kids courage, if you will, to be able to stay in school, to be able to realize their full potential," Brady said.

JCPS says 1200 students dropped out of its high schools in 2011-2012, the last year for which numbers are available.  That's 4.1 percent of its high school students, above the state rate of 2.5 percent.

Overall for JCPS and the state, those numbers are down over the previous four school years.
The state could announce as early as Tuesday that the dropout age will rise to 18 for every district, as those quick school board votes are counted in Frankfort.  Gov. Beshear, in championing the idea, said in late June that 96 school boards' yes votes would make the rule mandatory statewide.

Read Kentucky Dept. of Education dropout rate data, by school and by district, here: http://education.ky.gov/AA/Reports/Documents/Dropout_912_2012_03082013.pdf

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