Corporation for Public Broadcasting Launches Dropout Prevention Project

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The Corporation for Public Broadcasting announced today it is launching a new project focusing on America’s dropout problem in 20 cities where graduation rates lag the most.

The program, called American Graduate, will spread $4.4 million among the 20 cities, each of which has designed its own projects to keep students in school until they graduate. Eventually 40 other cities will be added under the auspices of the National Center for Media Engagement. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide funding for teachers involved in various projects to share information.

Much of the program will be focused on raising awareness of the dropout problem – a process that groups such as CPB partner America’s Promise Alliance have been focusing on for years – including the use of public service announcements about the costs of dropping out. Patricia Harrison, CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, said during a conference call that the program will concentrate on prevention, rather than providing services to the millions of young people who have dropped out over the past decade.

Harrison said this project will focus on middle-school students, particularly in developing ways to keep these “digital natives” engaged in school. Various projects will range from literacy clinics in cities such as Nashville with a growing immigrant and refugee population to teaching middle school age students to produce their own documentaries, officials said.

The two-year program hopes to reduce the number of so-called dropout factories, high schools that produce the largest number of dropouts. Once numbered at about 2,000 schools, that number has fallen to about 1,600 schools.

The CPB announcement came as the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics released a new report that found the percentage of students graduating from high school rose slightly – by about 1 percentage point in 22 states and the District of Columbia – during the 2008-09 school year. Overall, nearly 25 percent of students drop out of high school between the beginning of their freshman year and the end of the senior year.

Asian-Americans are the most likely to graduate from high school, with a graduation rate of 91.8 percent. Hispanic, Native American and African-American students have the lowest graduation rates of 65.9 percent, 64.8 percent and 63.5 percent, respectively.

In every state that reported its dropout rate (California, Nevada, Maryland, Utah and Vermont did not), more males dropped out that females.