Forgotten Youth: Re-Engaging Students Through Dropout Recovery

November 2012

Each year, thousands of Massachusetts students drop out of school. The path forward for these students is difficult, and failing to fully educate the next generation of workers and leaders has substantial long-term consequences for our shared economic and social well-being. To address this, policymakers have devoted significant attention in recent years to raising high school graduation rates through dropout reduction strategies. Missing from this agenda, however, is any significant focus on dropout recovery, the act of re-engaging and re-enrolling students who leave school before graduating. Without a more systemic approach to connect with out-of-school youth, we will continue to struggle to fulfill our commitment to educate all students.

To address this need, Boston Public Schools has established the Re-Engagement Center, a dropout recovery program that strives to re-enroll out-of-school youth through outreach, personal connections, and a variety of educational options that support students to graduation. The Rennie Center conducted a case study of the Re-Engagement Center in Spring 2012, the findings of which are highlighted in the policy brief Forgotten Youth: Re-Engaging Students Through Dropout Recovery.The purpose of this brief is to make a contribution to a growing body of work about dropout recovery. The brief begins by discussing the role of dropout recovery as a strategy to increase the graduation rate, identifies common practices in other dropout recovery models, and documents the development and operation of the Re-Engagement Center. Forgotten Youth then identifies promising practices and ongoing challenges of this program, and concludes by offering considerations—based on literature and research findings—for school and district leaders, community partners, and state policymakers.

Interactive Map
The Rennie Center’s new policy brief, Forgotten Youth: Re-Engaging Students Through Dropout Recovery, explores dropout recovery, the act of re-engaging and re-enrolling youth who leave school before graduating. Research shows that out-of-school youth frequently want to return to school and continue their education, but lack the knowledge or means to do so. Promising approaches for addressing this include creating dropout recovery programs outside of traditional school settings that specialize in meeting and overcoming the challenges faced by out-of-school youth, and providing returning students with an appropriate menu of educational options to lead to a high school diploma or equivalent.

Below is a link to explore an interactive map providing information about a variety of dropout recovery programs in the United States. These dropout recovery programs address the unique needs of out-of-school youth by focusing on: maintaining a focus on students’ future after high school; allowing individualized and flexible academic programs; taking a needs-based and supportive approach; and integrating/linking to community organizations. The purpose of this map is to highlight examples of how dropout recovery is used as a strategy to increase the graduation rate across the country.


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