San Francisco Unified School District is putting more money into reducing the city’s 15.8% dropout rate with a $1 million federal grant that comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Part of the fund will go to a program called Plan Ahead, a mandatory ninth-grade class devised by the district along with Gap and Pearson Foundation, which builds college-readiness into the school curriculum. Beginning with the class of 2014, all students are required to complete the class.

“The curriculum in the class would deal with everything from, how are you going to select a college, how are you going to select a career, to what are good habits for you to develop to not only survive in high school but to do well in high school and to do well in college,” says Bill Sanderson, SFUSD’s executive director for 21st century learning and accountability.

In conjunction with Plan Ahead, the school will also pilot the new Dropout Prevention Early Warning System, which targets students as early as kindergarten, based on the premise that attendance behavior is borne very early.

“If a student misses more than 10 percent of the school year, they’re definitely at risk for not succeeding in kindergarten,” says Maureen Carew, who’s with the district’s San Francisco Promise, part of the school district’s college and career readiness program. “And when you don’t succeed in kindergarten, you don’t have the basis for success in first grade, and it kind of continues on.”

Carew is working on regression analysis with the John Gardner Center at Stanford examining the grade school attendance records of student who dropped out of high school. “We want to see if there’s anything that could predict for us that they’re not going to be successful,” she says.

Using this research, she hopes, will help them determine those early indicators that can be logged into a data system devised to help counselors understand and access red flags for each student. “They can log into the system, and up will pop a student they should connect with for one reason or another,” Carew says.

Preventing dropouts in high school is a hot topic in education right now, Carew says. “Regression analysis is great, but unless we can use this information to act on this current day, it’s not useful.”

Other winning districts who received funding – which is specifically targeted at college- and career-readiness, include Alameda, Fresno, Los Angeles, and Elk Grove.

Preventing Dropout Effort Starts in Kindergarten 1 December,2010Tina Barseghian

  • Fooshka

    The ninth grade class they are describing sounds like AVID. Although I see the benefit of this type of class, my 4.0 Honors student would not need it, just like she didn’t need AVID. She already has study skills and she has a clear idea of the path to college. To REQUIRE this class seems like a one size fits all measure that will be good for some but not others, Requiring my daughter to take this course would limit her elective choices and make it more difficult for her to meet het A-G requirements. I understand the road to hell is paved with good intentions but maybe we should not be throwing money at this one.

  • Teacher

    Here is what will help prevent dropouts: having a curriculum that does not require achievement exceeding brain development at a given age. The trend to force kids at earlier and earlier ages to learn complex concepts is destructive in that average kids quickly learn that school is impossibly difficult for them and they drop out emotionally as soon as they can. Designers of the Common Core for elementary school students need to retake Child Development and Psychology and then re-adjust what we are asking of our youngest students. Kindergarten students are now expected to read fluently; second graders must identify genre and author purpose; fourth graders are doing algebra and geometry. The hope is that introducing these complex concepts early will increase later achievement. But young children need time to learn basics; their brains are in the concrete stage and they need to be given concrete tasks they can handle. Pushing high school curricula into elementary schools will increase our dropout rates; having requirements that are age-appropriate and accessible to students of average intelligence will reduce dropout rates. It’s not rocket science.

    • Leah Davies

      I share “teachers” concerns. What are we thinking??? Earlier is not better, it is most often discouraging to children. We seem to be setting them up for failure when we expect them to read fluently in kindergarten. The stress the teachers are under to teach reading to children who are not ready is an extremely unhealthy situation.

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