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Dropouts logoMEA proud partner in pilot for new Dropout Challenge
Statewide challenge from Supt. Flanagan increases focus on lowering 15 percent dropout rate

On June 29, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan announced a statewide “Superintendent’s Dropout Challenge,” urging schools to identify and assist at-risk students to make it through to high school graduation.

This new Michigan Department of Education program is based on the “Reaching and Teaching Struggling Learners” initiative which was begun and funded in part by MEA to assist schools in finding ways to keep potential dropouts in school.  The program uses existing student achievement, retention, attendance and behavior data to identify students with early-warning dropout signs.  Then schools provide those students with appropriate support and intervention, based on solid education research.

“This ‘Dropout Challenge’ speaks to the success of the pilot program we all participated in,” said Bob Harris, a professional development and human rights consultant with MEA. “It’s wonderful that the Department of Education is taking action to share what has been learned in the “Reaching and Teaching” initiative so more schools have a chance to learn how to do this urgent work.”

The launch of this program is critical in light of Michigan’s dropout crisis – statewide, approximately 21,000 students drop out of school every year.  In 2008, MEA led a coalition of groups in a series of hearings around the dropout crisis, learning from educators, community and business leaders – as well as the students themselves – about what works and what doesn’t in getting students through to high school graduation.  (Learn more about the hearings and their findings at www.mea.org/dropouts.)

“With 15 percent of Michigan students dropping out, we have to do something significant to stem the tide,” said MEA director of communications Doug Pratt.  “MEA is proud to have been among the leaders in getting this program off the ground and proving it works.

“Rather than simply focusing on the ‘silver bullet’ solutions like raising the dropout age to 18, it’s good to see Superintendent Flanagan step up and take a more holistic approach. The hearings last year clearly showed that it takes entire communities to keep kids in school – we’re glad that someone in Lansing is finally listening.”


Dropouts: One is Too Many Coalition

Executive Summary of dropout hearing findings

MDE Press Release on Superintendent’s Dropout Challenge


"Dropouts: One is Too Many" - Final Report

Dropouts: One is Too ManyCheck out the executive summary, video highlights, hearing transcripts and audio, online testimony and more

The “Dropouts: One is Too Many” coalition set out to jump start community conversations about the problems stemming from the approximately 21,000 students who drop out of school in Michigan every year. About 1,600 pages of testimony was collected from more than 500 people who attended the 11 hearings held across the state or shared ideas online. Four key themes were identified as areas that need attention in all efforts to keep students in school until graduation:

  • Students need caring relationships.

  • One size doesn’t fit all students.

  • Tackle the problem early – high school is too late.

  • This isn’t just a “school” problem – community collaboration is critical.

All the resources gathered through this process are now available online. Students, parents, educators, community activists and legislators can reference a variety of materials to help guide their work in solving the dropout crisis, including an executive summary, video highlights, hearing transcripts and audio, online testimony and more.

News Release: Community action critical to dropout prevention (PDF)

June 2008 CoverFrom the June 2008 MEA Voice:
Dropouts: One is Too Many

MEA addresses causes, solutions

James Alexander dropped out of high school twice before graduating in 2007. Now, the 21-year-old is in college, studying to be a teacher. “I always thought I was going to be an NBA player,” says Alexander, who admits he didn’t have a backup plan until he was older and encouraged by his own teachers to help students at risk of dropping out. “All my teachers let me know that I was a good teacher,” he says.

Dropout hearing news releases and other coverage

MEA: New dropout stats help identify problem—now it’s time for solutions

Today’s release of new, standardized statistics about Michigan dropout rates helps point out where and to what extent our state’s high schools come up short in graduating students. But identification is only half the battle. Read more.

CEPI Four-Year Cohort Graduation and Dropout Reports

Aimless students more likely to drop out, lack employment, survey confirms

One out of five young adults lack job or career goals, leading to increased dropout and jobless rates, according to a new survey. Read more.

Dropout crisis discussion at NEA RA echoes sentiments at Michigan hearings

Recent MEA-sponsored hearings about the dropout crisis are far from the only effort going on in the United States to graduate more students from high school. On Wednesday, more than 500 NEA Representative Assembly delegates gathered to hear from national experts on the issue and share their thoughts and concerns as they experience this crisis from the front lines. Read more.

New graduation requirements criticized as unrealistic for all students at May 15 dropout crisis hearing

Michigan's new core curriculum requiring four years of math and four years of science to graduate from high school is setting up some students to fail, according to testimony at the May 15 public hearing on the dropout crisis. This one-size-fits-all curriculum approach won't fit every student — a student who wants to become a graphic artist may not see the relevance in taking advanced math. Read more about the first two hearings.

Michigan dropout crisis costs $2. 5 billion annually — Solutions sought to raise graduation rates

Finding ways to fix Michigan’s dropout crisis is the focus of public hearings beginning May 8, part of a statewide initiative to increase the number of high school graduates to stabilize a weak economy.

By some estimates, about 20,000 Michigan students drop out of school every year. According to Columbia University’s prestigious Teachers College, boosting high school graduation rates would save $127,000 per new graduate through extra tax revenues, reduced costs of public health, crime and justice, and decreased welfare payments. Every year that passes without a solution to the dropout crisis drains another $2.5 billion from local, state and national coffers. Read more.

Media coverage of Michigan's dropout crisis

MEA President Salters in Detroit News: Make graduation a higher priority (PDF)

Public News Service: Dropout Rates Fueling Violent Crime in MI

The Daily News (Iron Mountain): High cost of dropouts (editorial)

The Detroit News: Michigan says 25% don’t graduate

The Saginaw News: Saginaw County graduation rates highlight achievers, troubles

Traverse City Record-Eagle: TC high schools fail to meet standards

The Mining Journal, Marquette: Educators address dropout issue

The Saginaw News, My View: Hearings to address dropout prevention

The Saginaw News: Reasons students drop out

Kalamazoo Gazette: Panelists discuss causes, solutions for dropout problem

The Michigan Business Beat: Government Affairs Director Ed Sarpolus talks about the dropout crisis and how it affects small business and unemployment

The Big Show: Michael Patrick Shiels’ radio interview with MEA Government Affairs Director Ed Sarpolus

Detroit News: Solutions to state's dropout crisis sought

Detroit News editorial: Better guidance will prevent students from dropping out

MEA President Salters in Detroit News: Raise bar but keep it relevant (PDF)

MEA President Salters' Detroit Free Press op-ed: Michigan must save students who drop out

Inside Michigan Education podcast: Interview with Doug Pratt of the MEA on the Public Hearings "Dropouts: One is Too Many"

WILS (Lansing, Mich.): MEA Director of Communications Doug Pratt talks with Walt Sorg about the dropout crisis

Gongwer Report: MEA plans hearings on dropout solutions (PDF)

Public News Service: Public Hearings Aim to Drop the School Dropout Rate

MEA President Salters' Detroit News column: Michigan must confront dropout epidemic (PDF)



Updated: July 13, 2009 3:20 PM

Partners organizations:

Michigan Education Association (MEA)

Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA)

Kent Intermediate School District

Michigan’s Children

Michigan’s Charter Schools

Michigan’s Promise

Michigan Future, Inc.


To conduct hearings gathering input on how to stem the dropout crisis and present those findings to Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the Legislature to assist in the development of sound education policy.