Summit marks kickoff for Graduation Matters – South Carolina’s Dropout Prevention Initiative

November 20, 2008

COLUMBIA, SC – November 20, 2008 – South Carolina will join a national dropout prevention campaign on Tuesday, December 2, when the state holds its first-ever summit focused on reducing dropouts and increasing on-time graduation rates.

The daylong meeting begins at 9:45 a.m. at Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.  It marks the launch of “Graduation Matters – South Carolina’s Dropout Prevention Initiative” sponsored by the State Department of Education in partnership with America’s Promise,
AT&T, State Farm Insurance and the Governor’s Office.   

The America’s Promise Alliance is supporting 100 summits in 50 states and 50 cities to be held by 2010. The meetings are part of a nationwide effort to increase awareness and stimulate discussion of the dropout problem, encouraging collaboration and finding solutions for states and communities that want to improve student success. 

“In South Carolina, all of us are impacted by the 8,100 students who drop out every school year,” said State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex.  “Our initiative focuses not just on schools, but on the need for widespread support. To be effective, we’re seeking active participation by community leaders, business representatives, faith-based organizations, elected officials, parents, students, higher education, and state and local government.”

Guest speakers for the event are Harold D. Brown, president and CEO of EdWorks, who is working to transform large, struggling urban high schools in Ohio into smaller, more successful schools, and Dr. Pat Cooper, CEO of the Early Childhood and Family Learning Foundation in New Orleans, LA, that’s setting up community centers, child care and school health programs in at-risk neighborhoods. 

Over six hundred persons are expected to attend the summit. School districts have been asked to send teams of students, parents, district staff members and middle/high school staff who work with dropout prevention issues.

“We believe this meeting will act as the catalyst for regional grassroots efforts to address our dropout problems,” Rex said. 

Organizers said the summit will give participants suggestions for:
 – Getting comprehensive and accurate graduation and dropout data

 – Establishing early warning systems to identify potential dropouts;
– Supporting parents’ participation and creating individualized graduation plans for students
– Helping struggling students to meet rigorous expectations
– Sharing results of research and “best practices” for dropout prevention.

Other topics to be discussed include schools as community learning centers; students who are overage for grade; re-enrolling dropouts; mentoring; graduation coaches; afterschool programs and informal education; at-risk factors; proven exemplary programs; students with special needs; and national service as a way to keep students engaged and in school.  More information is available at the Graduation Matters web page.

More on the National Dropout Prevention Campaign

America’s Promise Alliance – founded by General Colin Powell and today chaired by Alma Powell – is the nation’s largest multi-sector coalition dedicated to the well-being of children and youth in the U.

The Alliance believes its national dropout prevention campaign will not only raise awareness of the problem, but also spark solutions to increase college readiness and the nation’s high school graduation rate. Alliance-supported summits take a new approach at solving the dropout crisis by involving the entire community in an effort to develop a localized action plan. 

Research shows that the more essential supports young people experience in their daily lives – what the Alliance calls the “Five Promises”
– the more likely they are to stay in school and succeed. These supports include:

– Caring adults – including parents, teachers, coaches and neighbors
– Safe places – whether it’s a community center, library or the house of a friend or neighbor
– A healthy start  – including good nutrition and health insurance
–  Effective education – a quality learning environment with a relevant curriculum, high expectations and consistent guidance that lead to marketable skills

– Opportunities to help others – self-esteem soars when kids give back to their community.

Together, the Alliance says, these Five Promises help put children on a path whose destination is graduation and future success.