THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
LEARNING WHAT WORKS TO STEM DROPOUTS

Simply raising mandatory school age is not a solution

May 29, 2011

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THE GLOBE’S May 23 editorial “Mass. can learn much from N.H. in cutting dropouts’’ oversimplifies the issue of raising the mandatory age of high school attendance.

To claim that solely raising the age in Massachusetts would substantially reduce the dropout rate is naive. The New Hampshire approach was comprehensive, including support for teachers to connect with students to make learning more engaging and new internships and training for students to connect school with employment opportunities.

Our research looked at seven states that increased the mandatory age of school attendance since 2000 and found little evidence to support the effectiveness of policies that simply raise the mandatory attendance age. It is much more likely that it was the additional supports for teachers and students that made the difference in New Hampshire.

Rather than focusing on legislation that compels students to stay in school until they are 18, we argue that there is far more value in efforts to make schools places in which students want to stay. It may seem like an easy fix to change the mandatory age, but lawmakers should not be fooled into thinking that this policy alone will persuade struggling students to stay in school.

Jill Norton
Executive director
Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy
Cambridge