Education Area Team of Convención Hispana aims to reduce drop out rate
by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, November 2007) The Education Area Team at the Convención Hispana held at Lincoln West High School on Saturday October 13th resolved to develop a sustained strategy to address lowering the dropout rate of Hispanic high school students in northern Ohio. A similar resolution was passed at the last Convención Hispana in 2004.

In the interim since 2004, little has been done to address the dropout rate among Hispanic students. The dropout rate among Hispanic students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District stands at 76%, the highest in the nation, according to Dr. Rosita López, Associate Professor of Educational Administration at the College of Education Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations at Northern Illinois University.

This time around, members of the Education Area Team vow to gather the data they need and begin to seek solutions that will result in “best practices that can be successfully replicated in other communities where the Hispanic high school dropout rate is unacceptable.”

 As a starting point the Education Area Team has asked the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) to provide by April of 2008 a comprehensive 6-year analysis (2000-2006) that will provide a profile of the Hispanic student population in the CMSD. Their resolution calls for the analysis to include “the attendance rate, graduation rate, dropout rate, college participation rate and a demographic profile,” The group hopes to use this data as a base line against which it can measure progress.

The group plans to use the collected data and research to “develop and adopt a comprehensive three-year plan with measurable outcomes to reduce the Hispanic high school dropout rate in Northern Ohio.”

López says that the community is “running out of time” to address the dropout problem. She presented some data that shows how the dropout rate has a huge impact on the local economy and the safety and security of citizens. The lifetime earnings of dropouts are substantially lower than those who graduate from high school. Society also incurs a higher cost in terms of crime and incarceration, as 82% of prisoners are high school dropouts.

Contributing factors to the dropout rate are “low academic achievement and a sense that teachers and administrators do not care about students,” says López. Young people want to be good at something; if they do not feel they can be good academically they will find something they are good at. “If the schools will not embrace them, the streets will,” said López.

Critical issues that need addressing, says López, are “lack of adequate counseling and lack of relevant curriculum.” Among the strategies recommended, López suggested providing more “supplemental services such as tutoring, social services and counseling for needy students” and offering “different learning environments for students.” López called for a curriculum more relevant to Hispanic students and Hispanic culture, plus use of techniques appropriate for different learning styles. Lopez presented a 10-point plan for addressing the dropout problem from a group of over 100 community-based and educational organizations calling for an end to the silent epidemic of the high dropout rate. The plan is available at www.silentepidemic.org.

Valentina Mickey, Assistant Superintendent of the Office of Secondary Education in the Cleveland Municipal School District and the former principal at Lincoln West High School, says the district loses a lot of students after the 8th grade, students that never make it to high school. It loses a lot in the 9th grade and loses seniors who can’t pass the Ohio Graduation Test.

Mickey says this past summer the district took 200-250 eighth grade students and offered them 6 weeks of all day classes with mandatory attendance to offer them a change to catch up academically in order to be promoted to high school. The district also offers a Bridge program to help 8th grade students make the transition to high school. Counselors and high school students are now available to talk to eighth graders about the programs at the high schools and open houses help students to explore their high school options. Orientation tours for high school freshmen also are in place to help students adjust to the high school setting, said Mickey. High school seniors have been recruited to mentor freshmen.

Most Lincoln West High School ninth grade students will be eligible for special interventions to be provided through a new grant provided by Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, says Mickey. The grant will help to provide more resources to students who are academically at risk. The grant will also aid with professional development of teachers, forming graduation action teams and increasing parental involvement.

Victor A. Ruiz, Chair of the Education Area Team, promised the group would contact those that attended the workshop at the Convención Hispana 2007 to hold follow up meetings. Andres Gonzalez, President of the Hispanic Roundtable Community Programs, which sponsored the Convención Hispana 2007, promised that the Hispanic Roundtable would make sure the committees followed up various resolutions passed at the Convención Hispana, which attracted over 1,200 people,  Dr. Samuel Betances, the keynote speaker, urged those present to “move on the resolutions, so they are not just words. Get them done.”

 

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