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Virginia Journal of Education

Your Classroom

Keeping Kids in School:
What We Can Do

Young people who drop out of school face a tough uphill climb in life, and every student we lose is a setback for our families, schools and communities. The Institute of Education Sciences (IES), a research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, has recently published a practice guide on dropout prevention, offering a checklist for carrying out six recommendations. Here are the six recommendations and some of the items on the IES checklist:

Recommendation 1: Use data systems that support a realistic diagnosis of the number of students who drop out and that help identify students at high risk of dropping out.

• Use data to identify incoming students with histories of academic problems, truancy, behavioral problems and retentions.
• Monitor the academic and social performance of all students continually.
• Review data to identify students at risk of dropping out before key academic transitions.
• Monitor students’ sense of engagement and belonging in school.
• Collect and document accurate information on student withdrawals.

Recommendation 2: Assign adult advocates to students at risk of dropping out.

• Choose adults who are committed to investing in the student’s personal and academic success, keep caseloads low, and purposefully match students with adult advocates.
• Establish a regular time in the school day or week for students to meet with the adult.

Recommendation 3: Provide academic support and enrichment to improve academic performance.

• Provide individual or small group support in test-taking skills, study skills, or targeted subject areas such as reading, writing or math.
• Provide extra study time and opportunity for credit recovery and accumulation through after-school, Saturday or summer enrichment programs.

Recommendation 4: Implement programs to improve students’ classroom behavior and social skills.

• Use adult advocates or other engaged adults to help students establish attainable academic and behavioral goals with specific benchmarks.
• Recognize student accomplishments.
• Teach strategies to strengthen problem-solving and decision-making skills.
• Establish partnerships with community-based program providers and other agencies such as social services, welfare, mental health and law enforcement.

Recommendation 5: Personalize the learning environment and instructional process.

• Establish small learning communities and smaller classes.
• Establish team teaching.
• Create extended time in the classroom through changes to the school schedule.
• Encourage student participation in extracurricular activities.

Recommendation 6: Provide rigorous and relevant instruction to better engage students in learning and provide the skills needed to graduate and to serve them after they leave school.

• Provide teachers with ongoing ways to expand their knowledge and improve their skills.
• Integrate academic content with career and skills-based themes through career academies or multiple pathways models.
• Host career days and offer opportunities for work-related experiences and visits to postsecondary campuses.
• Provide students with extra assistance and information about the demands of college.

Competition Challenges
Young Scientists

Renewable alternatives to petroleum-based plastics and a device that could remove carbon dioxide from car exhaust were among the top entries in last year’s Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision Awards program, which is now accepting entries for the 2009 competition.

ExploraVision challenges students, in teams of two to four, to research current technologies and science and design an innovative technology that might exist in 20 years. Up to $240,000 in savings bonds will be awarded to the winning teams, and some will receive a free trip to Washington, D.C. for an awards weekend later in 2009. Since the program’s inception 16 years ago, more than 246,000 students have submitted entries.

Entries are due January 28, 2009. For more information and an application, visit

‘Real Life’ Contest Offers
Students Chance to Write

In a world fixated on the every word and movement of celebrities, an essay contest is giving students a chance to learn about real life from real people. The “Listen to a Life” contest works by having students interview a grandparent or grandfriend—someone over 50, and speak with them about their life experiences, hopes and goals. The entry is a 300-word essay based on the interview.

The contest is part of the national Legacy Project, sponsored by the nonprofit organization Generations United, based in Washington, D.C., and the grand prize includes a Lenovo ThinkCentre computer for the student and $25,000 of educational software for the school. There’s also a free online kit containing life interview ideas and goal-setting activities. Deadline for contest entries is March 30, 2009.

For contest details, visit



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