Obama Wades Into Issue of Raising Dropout Age
Another interesting proposal by Obama:
President Obama's State of the Union call for every state to require students to stay in school until they turn 18 is Washington's first direct involvement in an issue that many governors and state legislators have found tough to address.
While state legislative efforts to raise the dropout age to 18 have spread in recent years, many have had trouble winning passage. Last year, for example, such legislation was considered in Alaska, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland and Rhode Island — but only Rhode Island actually changed its law.
"Efforts to raise the age usually come up against the argument that requiring students to stay in school when they no longer want to be there is disruptive to other students and not fair to the teacher," said Sunny Deye, a senior policy analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures. "Home-school groups often oppose raising the compulsory attendance age, and especially now, in this budget crunch, there are major concerns about the fiscal impact."
…Several economists, over two decades, have found that higher dropout ages improve not only graduation rates but entrance to higher education and career outcomes. "The evidence is quite robust that raising the school-leaving age increases educational attainment," said Philip Oreopoulos, an economics professor at the University of Toronto, whose study found, however, that exceptions to the law, lenience in enforcement and weak consequences for truancy could all interfere with an increase. "Ideally, you use both a carrot and stick approach, so that if students have to stay in school longer you're also providing wider curriculum options that might interest them."
In a 2010 report on the dropout problem, Robert Balfanz, a research scientist at Johns Hopkins University, found that of the six states that increased the compulsory school age from 2002 to 2008, two — Illinois and South Dakota — experienced increases in their graduation rates, and one, Nevada, had a decline.
"It's symbolically and strategically important to raise the age to 18, but it's not the magical thing that in itself will keep kids in school," Dr. Balfanz said.
January 25, 2012