In a coordinated outreach to teens who’ve stopped attending class, Texas’s Rudder High School principals go to the former students’ homes in person and offer them whatever help they need to come back and graduate. (Photo: KBTX)
Dropouts at Rudder High School may be gone from the hallways, but they’re not forgotten for a second. The six principals of the 1,600-student school in Bryan, Texas, go door-to-door twice a year, every year, to track down all of the kids who’ve stopped showing up for class and personally ask them to return.
On their most recent “Dropout Blitz,” as they call it, Wednesday, the Bryan Independent School District staffers reached out to teens in 140 homes, urging each in person, or simply with a handout slid under the door, to get back into a school routine and go for their diploma.
“It shows them that we care enough to go see them,” 12th-grade assistant principal Rachel Layton tells Yahoo Parenting. “We talk about their situation. What caused them to stop going to school? So we can come up with a plan to help.”
Assistant principal Rachel Layton (Photo: KBTX)
Layton and her team of volunteers — working in tandem with nine other six-person groups — made a meaningful connection with 18-year-old dropout Ameir Davenport during their outreach, part of which was caught on video for a local news broadcast. The teen told KBTX that he’d lost his drive to attend school after he’d had to tend to an ill family member.
Rachel Layton and Ameir Davenport (Photo: KBTX)
“Come here. Please come back,” Layton urged the former student. And it worked. “[It was] kind of scary,” Davenport said of seeing his principal and a group of adults on his doorstep. “But they came by for a good reason, so I’m ready to go back to school … They’re trying to help me.”
Rudder High’s dropout prevention specialist Andrea Williams tells Yahoo Parenting that the face-to-face outreach program, now in it’s sixth year, gives educators a broader perspective of what’s going on in students’ lives that’s stopping them from pursuing their education. “Is it a shelter situation?” she asks. “Problems at home? Some of these kids [who are parents themselves] need childcare and don’t know where to go or are embarrassed about it and don’t know how to ask for help until you’re in their living room talking with them. We have programs to help with all of these issues, but if kids don’t know where to start, they’re not going to do it.”
The Census Bureau reported last year that the national dropout rate has reached a record low. Compared to 2000, when 12 percent of young adults were dropouts, recent data shows just 7 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds had dropped out of high school. “The percentage of kids we have dropping out of our school districts is the same as in most districts,” Rudder principal Bennie Mayes tells Yahoo Parenting. “I wouldn’t say it’s a major issue in our school but it’s an issue. If I have one dropout it’s an issue for me. I want every kid to graduate.”
And Layton, who has participated in the door-knocks each year so far, says she has seen firsthand how the intervention helps. “Last year there were 100 kids we made contact with,” she explains, noting that six students who were on the brink of dropping out in 2013 graduated last year thanks to the administrators’ efforts. “This is the reason we’re in education. It makes you feel so good when you see kids really get the message of why school is so important. We help them understand that there are better job opportunities and more security in their future if they continue in school. So then when you see those kids graduate who you were able to help, you just know it’ll have a positive impact on them for the rest of their life.”