Dropout Prevention Summit held at Belleview Biltmore listen01/12/09 SeÃ¡n Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:
Each year, 1 million American high school students drop out of school, according to America's Promise Alliance. This week at Pinellas Countyâ€™s historic Belleview Biltmore hotel, dozens of educators and public servants are meeting to share strategies on high school dropout prevention.
Americaâ€™s Promise Alliance was founded by Gen. Colin Powell and forms partnerships â€œcommitted to seeing that children experience the fundamental resources they need to succeed,â€ according to its website. High school students Elizabeth Soto and Mia Shane opened the Florida Americaâ€™s Promise Summit by singing the National Anthem, then Soto told how she turned her life around from considering dropping out to becoming a successful student at Pathways Academy in Flagler County.
The summitâ€™s theme is â€œnavigating the seas to success: stay the course to graduation.â€ Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Julie Janssen said that a key to keeping students, like Soto, in school could be to reduce the number of standards required for students to master.
Former panhandle state Rep. Curtis Richardson tied Floridaâ€™s dropout rate to the stateâ€™s incarceration rate. Even as Florida lawmakers slash $500 million from the education budget, Richardson noted that the state continues to spend on its more than 100,000 inmates. Richardson said that in some places of the state, the â€œprison-industrial complexâ€ drives the economy, especially in rural north Florida counties.
Another group making the connection between incarceration rates and dropout rates is the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation, which brought the Choice Bus to the conference. The founder and president, Shelley Stewart gave a tour of the bus, which includes a mock jail cell complete with bars and a locking door.
Trina Condo is director of the Department of Educationâ€™s Florida Education and Training Placement Information Program. Condo said the dropout rate has a serious impact on the stateâ€™s economy and on individual earning.
Several of the presenters stressed community involvement with schools as a tool to lower dropout rates, including Lois Gracey, state director of Communities in Schools of Florida.