Why the Dropout Prevention Act needs our support

Mass Mentoring recently testified in support of Sen. Chang-Diaz’s bill S.185, An Act Preventing Students from Dropping Out of School. We believe this legislation addresses gaps in the holistic support necessary for Massachusetts youth to thrive academically.

The bill has two provisions that we felt both help address the dropout problem and align with MMP’s work and that of our mentoring program network:

  1. Implementing a graduation coach initiative that will match at-risk students with coaches to mentor and encourage them to success
  2. Expanding the early warning indicator index in order to better identify youth who may need additional support services to graduate on time.

According to the research on the causes of high school dropout, students report that a lack of connection to adults or their school is a leading reason for disengaging from school. It is often reflected in poor attendance rates in the lower grades. The graduation coach initiative will not only help address this issue, but will give at-risk students the additional socio-emotional and academic support they need to graduate.

The initiative will match students with a coach who will provide individualized mentoring, guidance, and encouragement to nurture academic success. National research has shown that youth in mentoring relationships present better attitudes and behaviors at school and are also more likely to graduate high school and attend college.

In addition to serving as a mentor to students at risk of dropping out of school, the graduation coaches will be charged with connecting these students to school and community resources to help them towards academic success. Formal, structured mentoring programs could be a part of this solution and are frequently already working in that regard. According to Mass Mentoring Counts, a biennial statewide youth mentoring survey conducted by the Donahue Institute at the University of Massachusetts, 44 percent of mentoring programs identify their primary goal as providing education and academic support to young people. Additionally, in our verbal testimony at this week's hearing, Mass Mentoring CEO David Shapiro asserted the importance of proper training and support for the graduation coaches so they can be effective mentors and offered MMP's support in this area.

Including the expansion of the early warning indicator index is also a critical provision of this bill. Research has shown that the decision to drop out of school is a gradual process that often begins long before students enter high school. By expanding the early warning indicator index, more schools will be able to identify students in need of extra support, and more students will benefit from additional resources, such as volunteer mentors who can provide academic tutoring in addition to social and emotional support. This is the type of asset-based youth development approach that can maximize the potential of every young person rather than then intervening to address a mounting set of deficits.

Each year, 10,000 Massachusetts youth drop out of high school. High school dropouts are less likely to be employed, and are more likely to earn less if they are employed. They’re also more likely to be dependent on public assistance and become incarcerated.

We believe that by employing a comprehensive approach such as the one proposed in S.185, we may be able to address this complex issue, and provide all our young people with the education and support that they need and deserve for generations to come.

If you'd like to receive additional information about this legislation and other advocacy news, please email Elena Sokolow-Kaufman with your name and email address.