Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dropout Age Hike Debated

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dropout Age Hike Debated

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Richard Marable finally got tired of seeing students

count down to their 16th birthday so they could legally drop out

of school.

So the Rome special-education teacher, who also is chairman of

the Senate Education Committee, decided the state should force

children to stay in school until they're 18.

Gov. Zell Miller's plan to hire bounty hunters has grabbed all

the headlines, but lawmakers say raising the mandatory school

attendance age from 16 to 18 might do more to reduce Georgia's

historically high dropout rate.

"It's a simple way to address the problem, and now we're ready

for it," Marable said.

Ready because the state has increased funding in recent years

for alternative schools, where students with academic or

behavioral problems can be sent, he said.

But educators are wary of legislation that might keep

unmotivated, overage children in school, and they say there

isn't enough room in alternative facilities to handle all the

potential dropouts.

"You're asking for us to have chaos in the regular school

setting," said Linda Herman, principal of Windsor Forest High

School in Savannah. "Forcing kids to stay in school who don't

want to be there would cause major safety problems."

Miller and lawmakers have made keeping kids in school one of

their top priorities for the 1997 General Assembly session.

It's difficult to pinpoint Georgia's exact dropout rate. One

reason is that some studies account for students moving within

the state, who might be counted as "dropouts" in one district

but graduate in another.

In this year's Department of Education report card, state

officials reported 29,141 high school students dropped out in

1995-96, a rate of 12.7 percent.

The same report showed 30.2 percent of students who started

high school in 1992 failed to graduate within four years.

Last week, the state-sponsored Council for School Performance

put the state dropout rate at 8 percent.

U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Commerce figures ranked

Georgia 49th in the country, ahead only of California, in the

percentage of 18to 24-year-olds who didn't complete high school. …

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