The Dropout Prevention and Recovery Act
Senate Bill (SB) 65, Statutes of 1985, Chapter 142) initiated three new dropout prevention efforts:
Pupil Motivation and Maintenance Program
The Pupil Motivation and Maintenance (M&M) Program was built upon provisions of the School-Based Coordination Act (SB 77, Statutes of 1981). In addition to addressing the needs of students in at-risk situations, this program funds a dropout prevention specialist (outreach consultant). Other key components of the program are positive attendance and discipline programs, Coordination of Service Teams (COST), Student Success Team (SST) and resiliency-creating strategies. The program is a performance-based effort, and schools report evidence of their efforts and success on an annual end of the year report. The most successful schools are acknowledged each year at the annual dropout prevention conference.
Funding for the M&M Program (fiscal year 2005-06: $16.6 million) is provided from the state General Fund. Schools receive approximately $50,000 grant to pay the salary, benefits, travel, and related employment costs of the outreach consultant position. Funding for the program is part of the Pupil Retention Block Grant enacted by Assembly Bill (AB) 825 (2004). Pursuant to the Block grant legislation, school districts receiving program funding in 2004-05 must maintain at least the same number of outreach consultants they had in 2004-05.
There are no longer applications for this program and districts that operated the program in 2004-05 continue to receive the funding. Initially only school districts with the highest dropout rates in the state were eligible. Not unexpectedly, these school districts were also the lowest performing in the state. The program targets elementary, middle, and high schools and serves students from kindergarten through grade twelve. The focus of all school-based coordinated programs is multi-funded students. These students are recipients of services from special education, Title I, bilingual education, and gifted and talented education. The immediate concern for M&M schools is the early identification and intervention into the lives of those students who exhibit early evidence of school failure.
The 350 M&M schools funded in 2004-05 are improving both their student performance and reporting on their own awareness of student learning levels. The employment of an outreach consultant has proven to be a remarkable support for some of the most challenged schools in California. Dropout rates in the high schools are down. Elementary schools implementing M&M programs routinely lead their school districts in attendance. Performance data related to resiliency factors are collected on such indicators as community connectedness, high level of academic expectations from staff and students, adult mentoring, and student service learning. Although the M&M program is focused on preventing school dropouts, it also has a significant impact on school-wide student achievement. M&M schools are much more likely to meet or exceed their Academic Performance Index (API) target than the average California school. In 2002, 65 percent of M&M schools in California met or exceeded their API target compared to 52 percent of California schools.
Alternative Education Outreach Consultant Program
The Alternative Education Outreach Consultant Program (AEOC) is a student dropout recovery and educational re-entry program that offers classroom instruction, vocational training, General Educational Development Test preparation, and academic and career counseling for both dropouts and potential dropouts. An AEOC may be established at a continuation high or adult school, or the district may contract with a private nonprofit, community-based organization to operate the center. The AEOC is required to provide the following:
- Basic skills that improve students academically and motivates them in obtaining employment or returning to the comprehensive high school
- A clinical, client-centered operation that includes diagnosing the student's educational abilities, setting individual student goals, providing individual courses of instruction, and evaluating each student's progress
- Classroom instruction
- A strong partnership with labor, business, and industry
An AEOC does not replace other district options such as continuation high schools or adult schools, nor does it replace traditional alternative programs such as independent study, work experience, and Regional Occupational Programs (ROP). Although services can be provided by the AEOC, including academic and career counseling, the goal of the program is to assist students to complete high school or its equivalent.
A student enrolled at an AEOC must be at least thirteen years of age, but there is no upper age limit for AEOC students. The average student age is between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. Often students are recruited using the existing district processes, such as district drop lists, referrals from school counselors, school administrative personnel, or through the efforts of the outreach consultant (dropout recovery specialist).
The state provides $2.5 million dollars for 50 districts to operate AEOC programs. These funds are to be used to hire an outreach consultant whose job is to recruit school dropouts to the AEOC and assist with the assessment and referral of students to appropriate educational settings. One full-time outreach consultant position is required for each AEOC. The district is responsible for supplementing these funds with other resources to meet the intent of the law. These programs serve approximately 15,000 high-risk students annually.
Students in AEOC programs are more likely to remain in school and graduate. The evaluation of the AEOC Program revealed that participating students do the following:
- Function effectively in a school environment
- Receive more direct instructional services and successful referrals to other agencies
- Demonstrate improved educational performance as a result of receiving educational and related services, such as crisis intervention, psychological services, and health services
Educational Clinic Program
The Educational Clinic Program was a dropout recovery program designed to return students who had been out of school 45 or more consecutive days or were expelled from school to an educational setting. The Clinic concept combined instruction in basic academic skills with emphasis on motivational strategies to encourage school re-entry or employment. It differed from most alternative schools by dealing with youth ages 13-19 who had not been attending school. The clinic offered comprehensive needs assessment and individualized instruction from certificated teachers with experience working with at-risk students. Students received up to 225 hours of instruction (405 with approval of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction).
Student recruitment was generally accomplished through partnerships with community organizations, probation and social welfare programs, and district drop lists. Students often referred family or friends to the clinic. A large number of clinic participants were recruited outside the school system.
Educational Clinic students are classified as high-risk and are typically several years behind normal grade level. The average age of students attending and Educational Clinic is sixteen. Family income level of students is between $10,000-$15,000, well below the California average. Many of the students come from homes where the primary language is not English and the parents themselves have not completed high school.
With the passage of the block grant legislation (AB 825) in 2004, this program became discretionary at the district level. The $1.3 million that used to fund Educational Clinic programs became discretionary for programs in the Pupil Retention Block Grant.
Educational Clinic programs were highly effective in recovering and retaining students who had not been attending school. Additional outcomes included:
- Students successfully transition to traditional school or to another educational program
- Students increase reading scores
- Students increase the number of credits for graduation