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West Springfield High Favors Bill to Increase Dropout Age

Drop out pic

WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — The Legislature’s Education Committee is considering raising the school dropout age from 16 to 18.

They will also hear bills that will require students to stay in school until they graduate, or turn 18.

Officials at West Springfield High are glad to hear the proposals.

“We have struggled here in West Springfield with the dropout rate. When I arrived a couple of years ago, we had a dropout rate of 5 percent. We knocked that down for our numbers to be between 2 to 3 percent,” said the school’s Principal Michael Richard.

In fact, they already have a dropout prevention team made up of 16 volunteers, including everyone from staff to community members who meet bi-weekly to identify high risk students.

“We also have counselors who do outreach to the homes to get those students invested in school. We also have a school called ‘Reconnecting Youth,’ where students are paired with both a counselor and a teacher, to get them reconnected into the program,” Guidance Counselor Shamis White explains.

A few years ago, the school even got a dropout grant, to help those who decided to leave still get their GED.

If the bill passes, it could mean schools could incur extra costs.  

“In certain districts, maybe not West Springfield, but certainly in some higher profile districts, you need to have more faculty and staff to accommodate the number of students who would be staying in school, textbooks, but again, those costs are minimal compared to what we would receive,” Richard adds.

It would also suggests hiring graduation coaches to work with at risk students, which would be paid for by the state, not local districts.

The legislation education committee will hear the bill on Tuesday.

On Facebook, Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette shared his excitement over the proposal, writing that in the last 10 years, their dropout rate went from nearly 7.9 percent to 3.8 percent.

The bill now heads to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

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