Wednesday, August 27, 2014


There is no mistaking the fact that Hudson has an At-Risk program that is the envy of school districts all across the state. We are constantly fielding requests from districts that would like to replicate the programming that we have in place. In fact, our At-Risk program has recently gotten the attention of a national audience, and we are making plans right now for the National Dropout Prevention Conference this November in Louisville, Kentucky.

So, At-Risk of what? Glad you asked. Essentially we are talking about students that are at risk of failure in school that will ultimately lead to dropping out of school. I have written extensively about the importance of a high school diploma and the fact that this piece of paper is a gateway to higher lifetime earnings. Research and statistics show that individuals without a high school diploma will earn much less than those with a high school degree. Without a high school diploma, a dropout is significantly limited to the type of jobs they will be able (and qualified) to hold, and most of those jobs aren't going to pay real well. This leads to poverty, health issues, an inability to 'make ends meet', and frankly, a very hard life. Want to live the American Dream? You can start by finishing high school. It is for these reasons that we work so hard to ensure that students graduate from high school. This is also why you sometimes hear about school districts in big cities embarking on door knocking campaigns to get young people who have previously dropped out back in the school building.

At Hudson, we have a very robust system of interventions and programming available to meet the needs of these students. Some, are like the homework policy most of you have heard of (and may have experienced) at some point. The idea behind this policy is simple: you must do your homework no mater what. If you don't get it done, plan on staying after school until it is done. We are interested in the learning that occurs through the completion of the homework rather than the punitive measures that we can hand out for not completing an assignment. While the policy has its detractors from time to time, you certainly can't argue with the results. The after school program goes hand in hand with the homework policy, as does the 2.0 rule. In addition to those services, we boast a counseling staff that is trained and certified in mental health and family counseling.

Funding for At-Risk programming is tied directly to the number of students that meet at least two markers identifying them as such. At Hudson, those markers include students with a poor attendance record (either chronic absenteeism or tardiness). This is pretty obvious isn't it? If students aren't in school, then they are going to miss out on valuable instruction, that can lead to the next marker: credit accrual and progress in school. Specific to this marker, we pay close attention to students who are failing any class or were retained in school. If students have failed a course, then obviously they will not earn the credit toward graduation, which will put them behind their peers when it comes to meeting graduation requirements. The next item of consideration when determining a students' at-risk status is their connection to school. Students who do not participate in extra-curricular activities, express feelings of not belonging (limited number of friends), or have a  history of disciplinary sanctions are are certainly at-risk! Finally, we look at those who have low achievement scores in reading or math. These two content areas are among the most important skills that young people need not only to graduate from high school, but to function in society!

What is missing from our list of potential markers for at-risk students is poverty. This is because the state doesn't recognize the inclusion of socio-economic status as a factor in determining a student's at-risk status. The interesting point to be made here is that of all the factors listed, the effect size of poverty is far greater than all of the others. When we desegregate our student achievement data, this becomes very obvious. That is the primary reason that we support the inclusion of socio-economic status as a factor in determining the funding algorithm for dropout prevention programming in the next legislative session.

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