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About Dropout Prevention

The Dropout Prevention section of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Web site is devoted to providing information and resources toward reducing Missouri's dropout rate and making a positive difference through education and service.

Receiving a high school diploma is an expectation society has of its citizens, and on-time graduation is an indicator of success in later life.  While Missouri's 2007 dropout rate is lower than the national average, 4.2% to 9.4% respectively, its percentages have increased each year since 2003.  In Missouri's two largest urban areas, the dropout rates were 21.1% in Kansas City and 18.7% in St. Louis.  Over the past five years, rural schools also observed increases in their dropout rates, though their averages are not as high as the urban areas.  DESE's goal is to reduce the state's dropout rate to 3.0% by 2010.

Whether students are from rural or urban areas of the state, students who drop out of school have similar characteristics.  According to the National Dropout Prevention Center, the primary reason students leave school is they are currently failing or have previously failed classes resulting in unearned credits.  Other reasons may include substance abuse issues, low self-esteem, little to no engagement in school and school-related activities, and poor relationships with both peers and adults.

Students at risk of dropping out are more often from financially disadvantaged homes with little family participation and expectations.  Their lives are impacted by many social and economic issues, including crime, abuse, poverty, teenage pregnancy and bullying.  All of these things directly correlate with and contribute to achievement gaps and academic failure.

Missouri is a leader in school reform, yet the role of increasing engagement and reducing the number of public school dropouts is not solely that of the school system.  It is a role that is to be shared among a cadre of public and private community agencies that provide support and services to students and families.  A Dropout Prevention Summit will be held April 20, 2009, which will bring together local school and community leaders to develop action plans to assist students and improve graduation rates locally and statewide.