Dropouts Or Pushouts? | Connecticut Public Radio

Dropouts Or Pushouts?

Dec 22, 2011

Laura McCargar is giving some high school dropouts a new label. She’s calling them “push-outs,” or students who get counseled, and sometimes coerced, out of school.

McCargar became aware of the issue as an education advocate in New Haven.

“This work began because I worked with young people in New Haven who would walk into our afterschool program and tell me, ‘I don’t go to high school anymore,'" she says. "'What do you mean?’ ‘Well, my principal told me that I can’t be here anymore.’ ‘Well, what do you mean? You should be a high school student.’”

McCargar works for the Hartford-based non-profit, A Better Way Foundation. She traveled throughout the state and found that some school districts are encouraging students to transfer into alternative or adult education programs rather than provide them with extra support if they misbehave. She says some school officials even threaten students who’ve been absent with steep fines if they don’t withdraw. The conversation goes something like this.

“You’ve missed 50 days this year. This is how much you’ve accumulated in truancy expenses. And if you don’t want these truancy expenses anymore, you can just sign out.”

By moving students into alternative programs, McCargar says, the school avoids having to list them as dropouts, even if they never end up getting their degree. Districts don’t have to deal with those students’ low standardized test scores. And, it can save them money. Connecticut spends an average of more than $13,000 on each public school student. Most so-called push-outs enroll in GED programs, where the state spends just over $1600 on each of them. For WNPR, I’m Neena Satija.