Dropout Recovery Efforts Prove Successful

Des Moines Public Schools’ efforts to bring dropouts back to school have proven successful, according to a recent district report that 63 percent of the students who left school and re-enrolled in September 2009 are still in school.

“Through the contacts we made with students over the summer, the Reach Out to Dropouts event in September, and some students re-enrolling on their own, we have been able to bring 255 students back to school,” stated Jennifer Farley, dropout prevention specialist. “As of December 2009, 160 of those 255 students have stayed in school and some have chosen to pursue or obtained their GED.” According to the most recent data, the number of dropouts in the district has decreased almost 8.6 percent from 710 in 2007-2008 to 649 in 2008-2009. The 2008-2009 dropout percentage for students in grades 7 through 12 is 5.10 percent, down from 7.72 percent the previous year.

Spearheaded by the district’s Learning Services Department, efforts to help students stay in school will continue. This spring, re-engaged students will be surveyed about the barriers that led to their leaving, and what or whom assisted with their return.

“Our Learning Services staff members have done an excellent job connecting with students who have left school, helping them find the best option to return,” said Farley. “Students have been successful once they return because of the options our district provides like Future Pathways, Scavo, and the Academic Support Lab at Hoover.”

To better track students a “re-engagement tag” has been created in the district’s Infinite Campus system to identify students who have dropped out but are recovered. Efforts also are underway to establish an “interventions tab” in Infinite Campus, which will keep records of all interventions that have taken place for students. The data collection for students who drop out will become more extensive on Infinite Campus, as well, to include staff notes and records.

This school year is the first year the district has used the Early Indicator System (EIS) to better identify potential dropouts, based on attendance, behavior and grades, for students as young as kindergarten.

“Utilizing the EIS system has allowed the district to become more focused on using data to strengthen our programs and strategies,” said Bryce Amos, executive director for Learning Services.

Several support systems have been created this year to assist the students who have returned to school. Scavo Alternative Campus and the Future Pathways program have provided options for returning students to earn credit and graduate. Additionally, the district plans to expand Academic Support Labs at East, Hoover, and North High School. These credit-recovery strategies have proven to help recovered students stay in school.

During the next school year the district will utilize dropout prevention funds specifically for credit recovery at many buildings. Staff will be encouraged to be innovative in the design of credit recovery opportunities offered to students.

“We will continue our efforts to help students stay in school and re-engage those who return by collaborating with district and community agencies to identify supports, strategies and funding,” commented Farley.

Reach Out to Dropouts, the re-engagement event launched in 2009, again will be held, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010.