Legislative Hall Pass
The Legislative Hall Pass is a new series at the Rodel blog. Our team of experts will examine the most pressing education bills and issues emerging from the 149th Delaware General Assembly, and weigh in with commentary, context, and data. Check out the Legislative Monitor for a full list of education-related legislation.
Discouraging drop-outs is a hot topic in Delaware this year, and one way that policymakers are seeking to accomplish this is by amending the state’s compulsory education law—the law that defines the age range in which a student is required to attend school or some other equivalent education program.
Currently in Delaware, children are required to attend school from ages five to age 16, with exemptions available for medical reasons. In January, Governor Carney’s Transition Team Report recommended raising the required school attendance until age 18, and there are a number of bills introduced in the legislature with similar objectives.
Pending Legislation aimed at discouraging students from dropping out:
House Bill 17, introduced by Representative Dukes, would increase the compulsory school attendance age requirement from 16 to the age of 17.
House Bill 55, introduced by Representative Heffernan, would go a step further and increase the compulsory school attendance age requirement to 18 years old. This change would be phased-in over two years with a one-year interim period where the compulsory school attendance age would be 17 years old. The bill would also add the following exemptions: the child has received a high school diploma or a certificate of performance the child obtains permission to withdraw from school from their district superintendent or charter school board president
House Bill 23: Unlike the first two bills, this piece of legislation would not raise the compulsory education age requirement. Instead, it requires that any student over the age of 16 who wishes to leave school prior to graduation must obtain the written consent of the parent or guardian, and attend an exit interview where information is supplied regarding the likelihood of diminished earning potential and the increased likelihood of unemployment associated with dropping out. It would also direct the school to explore whether there are support services, interventions or programs that might assist the student in remaining enrolled.
Over the past decade, many states have considered increasing their compulsory education requirements as part of a comprehensive plan to boost graduation rates. About 25 other states have compulsory school attendance to 18.
Do compulsory education requirements work? Research, at best, shows insufficient evidence, yet recent studies conclude that raising the minimum dropout age as a standalone policy has insignificant effects on increasing graduation rates. Various interventions and retention policies, in combination with raising the minimum drop out age, are more effective in lowering dropout rates (See: U.S. Department of Education, Southern Regional Education Board, Brookings Institution).
What are other states doing to complement increasing the compulsory age requirement?
Limiting additional exemptions significantly from compulsory attendance, for example, only to students who demonstrate financial hardship and that a job is necessary to support their family.
Ensuring robust alternative options with sufficient quality and capacity to serve students. These could include alternative settings, intensive schools, dual credit, early college, technical, and online options.
Providing and requiring early intervention when students are off track, including mandatory credit recovery options and counseling for at-risk students.
Utilizing data systems to quickly identify when a student is at risk of dropping out, direct appropriate services (aka interventions), frequently monitor and adjust interventions.
We agree that increasing the percentage of kids completing high school and getting ready for careers should be a priority for the state. We believe the best way to address the root problem is not just to raise the compulsory age, but to create an educational experience that students find engaging and worth their time. At the same time, let’s arm our educators with the tools and data systems they need to intervene early when students are off track and provide at-risk students with tools to graduate such as counseling, credit recovery options, and robust alternative learning options.
Delaware’s high school graduation rate grew faster than any state in the nation in 2014, so we have some momentum. Some work underway to making school more engaging for students includes:
- Personalized learning is growing in Delaware, utilizing technology and innovative teaching strategies to meet students where they are. From the BRINC districts to Design Lab to the Rodel Teacher Council, Delaware educators are pushing hard on student engagement and next-generation learning.
- Career pathways connects students to potential careers in emerging fields like advanced manufacturing or IT—giving them a glimpse, as early as middle school—of life after graduation and real meaning to the lessons from class.
- Social and emotional learning is also gaining traction in Delaware as schools focus more on creating compassionate cultures for students to feel safe, cared about, and engaged.
Legislative session resumes tomorrow. We will continue to blog about hot topics and monitor these bills and others. Check our Legislative Monitor for a list of all education bills.