After reading NASSP’s position statement on raising the compulsory school attendance age, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) approached NASSP for assistance in drafting legislation to provide resources and support for schools in states that elect to raise the dropout age to 18. The Broadening Opportunities Through Education Act will be introduced this afternoon, and many of the bill’s provisions mirror NASSP’s recommendations for middle level and high school reform.

“It is unacceptable and saddening that more than 9,000 students drop out of Maryland Public Schools each year,” said Rep. Edwards. “That is why my legislation…provides additional resources to states that increase compulsory school attendance through age 17 to help improve secondary schools and ensure that students at-risk of dropping out receive the support they need to reach their fullest potential. A quality education is critical to ensuring success in a 21st century global economy, and we must do all we can to provide one for our nation’s young people.”

Under the bill, states that have enacted laws to raise the compulsory attendance age could apply for a competitive grant to improve programs in their middle level and high schools. Funding would be used to establish or expand CTE programs, implement an early warning indicator system to help high schools and their feeder middle schools assist struggling students, create grade and school transition programs, personalize the school experience,
provide extended learning opportunities, and increase counseling and other nonacademic supports for students.

One study cited in the board position statement notes that 25% of potential dropouts remain in school because of compulsory schooling laws, but NASSP understands that raising the age of compulsory school attendance alone is not enough to ensure these students graduate. We were very pleased to work with Congresswoman Edwards and her staff to ensure that secondary schools can access vital resources that will allow them to provide supports to struggling students and help them get on track to be college and career ready when they complete high school.”

The position statement offers recommendations for school leaders aligned with the Breaking Ranks Framework. Principals are encouraged to personalize the school environment by creating small units within their schools, developing a personal plan for progress for each student, and assigning a personal adult advocate for each student. They are also called on to increase academic rigor through CTE or curriculum-based service learning; coordinate the delivery of physical, mental health, and social services for students in conjunction with community-based organizations; and provide intensive interventions to students who are at risk of dropping out.

Although Congress is unlikely to act on any education bills before the November elections, the Broadening Opportunities Through Education Act will likely be considered in future discussions of Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.

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