GEORGE NOFLIN: Are we doing enough for dropout prevention?

Students dropping out of school is a nationwide concern. The numbers are really staggering. Nationally, 70 percent of students graduate every year, including 72 percent in Mississippi and in Tupelo.
This article intends to address some of the reasons why students don’t feel the need to finish school and some of the efforts made nationally, statewide and locally to get students to stay in school.
There are several reasons why students feel the need to drop out of school. A few of these reasons include:
• Home: The importance of education in the home.
• Family: Teen pregnancy or severe sickness in the family.
• School: Being two or more years behind or not having a feeling of belonging at school.
Nationally, federal funds have been appropriated to school districts that have met the minimum requirements of having some items in place to address dropout prevention.
The state also has required each school district to submit a “Drop Out Prevention Plan,” which indicates the district’s intention to address the needs of potential dropouts.
The numbers of black male dropouts are exceptionally higher in comparison to other subgroups, and that has caused a movement of a group of men in Tupelo to unite and address this need. This movement is from a desire to help these students finish what they started. This group is called “Project TEAM.”
Last school year, this group helped 120 seniors who were at the verge of not graduating. Seventy of these students graduated from Tupelo High School. This year, the group’s focus has been to mentor students at the High School Advancement Academy.
We are doing some good things, but the minimum requirements are just that – minimum. There is an old saying I have used my entire career, “The largest room in the world is the room for improvement.”
Let’s not be content with where we are when we can do better. Let’s not be content until every student that starts kindergarten walks across the stage 13 years later with a diploma in hand. Until then, let’s keep working to meet the needs of all students.

George Noflin recently retired as an assistant superintendent in the Tupelo Public School District. He is currently vice president of Project TEAM, an organization which works to mentor students at risk of not graduating. For more information about Project TEAM, contact Tupelo Assistant Superintendent Fred Hill at (662) 841-8850.

George Noflin