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April 26, 2012

Council evaluates dropout prevention spending

by Srividya Murthy, Print Managing News Editor
The Montgomery County Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) released a report on county-funded alternative programs for students at risk of dropping out. The study was sponsored by the County Council to evaluate the success of these programs in preparing at-risk students for college and the workforce.

The study compiled data from fourteen dropout prevention and recovery programs in Montgomery County, which served more than 14,000 students at a cost of $28 billion in 2011. "The Council wanted to get a perspective on the programs and the dollars that are being allocated," said OLO's senior legislative analyst Elaine Bonner-Tompkins.

Dropout prevention programs like High School Plus and summer school allow students to make up credits and stay on track to remain in high school, while dropout recovery programs like Gateway to College at Montgomery College offer preparation for General Educational Development (GED) and other options for earning a high school diploma.

Bonner-Tompkins said that many of these programs have addressed the needs of at-risk students but have significant gaps when it comes to providing access to career and occupational training.

Bonner-Tompkins said that after April 30, the Board of Education (BOE) will present a revision for these programs. "At that time it will be clear where they will go with career technical education," she said. Since this is the first study to examine these programs and their effectiveness, Bonner-Tompkins believes that the data collected will help the county expand opportunities available for at-risk students.

According to counselor Marcia Johnson, around ten Blair students decide to pursue each of the available dropout recovery programs per year. Johnson said that if a student expresses an interest in dropping out, is above the legal dropout age of 16 and has parental consent, counselors will guide the student and parents in choosing the most fitting program for that student.

However, Johnson said that counseling tries to retain students who wish to drop out by meeting with them on an individual basis to help them with their grades. "Counselors and administrators work with students to help them and to provide support if their grades are falling," she said.



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