It’s kind of obvious that reducing the number of students who drop out of school would reap economic benefits, but the Alliance for Excellent Education has taken this truism one step further and attempted to calculate the benefits, on a national scale and for each of the 40 largest metropolitan areas in the country (including the five-county SF-Oakland Bay Area).
Almost 12,000 members of the class of 2008 in the Bay Area dropped out of high school. If just half of those dropouts were prevented, the group says, their economic model predicts these impacts:
- An increase in human capital, because finishing high school is a good predictor for higher educational attainment. The model predicts that 81 percent of people who achieve a high school diploma eventually go on to college and sometimes graduate school;
- $116 million in increased wages paid to these individuals over the course of an average year (this works out to about $20,000 a year per person in additional earnings);
- $17 million in increased tax revenue for cities and counties.
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The SF Chronicle has a nice feature on the Cyber High program, which helps struggling students recover or gain credits in order to graduate on time.
Since December, the Internet courses have allowed students to get a do-over for both D’s or F’s by taking the classes on a laptop computer at home or at Galileo through a program administered 200 miles away at the Fresno County Office of Education and Fresno school district.
“It’s made college a possibility for our students that wouldn’t have been able to go,” said Galileo Assistant Principal Nancy Lambert.
In June, 56 percent of the school’s graduating seniors were bound for a four-year college, up from 41 percent the year before.
Lambert said she doesn’t know how much of the increase can be attributed to the online courses, but said she can think of many students who are college bound because of Cyber High.
Perhaps more important, the program offers failing students an alternative to make up credits, giving them renewed hope that they will graduate on time.
“It’s preventing students from dropping out of high school,” Lambert said.
Cyber High is available at all SFUSD high schools, but is used most intensively at the county and continuation high schools. When I visited Civic Center High earlier this spring, I spoke to students who said the online classes they took through Cyber High were intense, but worth the effort. I think anything we can do to help students get back on track and keep them from dropping out is worth the expense and time.