Given Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children's (PPC) longstanding efforts in addressing dropouts, we were understandably pleased to see this new initiative. In fact, the first lady graciously reached out to PPC as early as last fall to seek our input on dropout prevention and re-engagement, and we were glad to oblige. We look forward to further collaboration with the first lady on this important issue.
A key focus of "Opening Doors" will be establishing early warning systems in our schools to identify students most at risk of dropping out. In many cases, the warning signs of a potential dropout emerge as early as middle school – and PPC has worked to ensure supports for those students so they get the help they need to continue their education through high school and beyond.
PPC has worked over the years to build a constructive dialogue among educators, business leaders and others to better engage and challenge students so they stay in school. Our work has helped ensure graduates are prepared for the challenges beyond high school, and it has helped students engage in work-based learning opportunities as early as middle school – opportunities that help them understand the value of a quality education and show students the relevance between what they are learning in the classroom and their future career goals.
PPC realizes, as the first lady does, that high school dropouts signify a loss of human potential that not only affects the young people who drop out, but also negatively impacts our economy and our communities.
While the reasons for dropping out might vary, the impact is the same. The dropout problem is a less visible form of "brain drain" that is hindering our workforce development and our economic strength. It also is adding to the societal costs of social service programs and, in the worst cases, our justice system and prisons.
Statewide policy discussions on education reforms or workforce development too often have given scant attention to the dropout issue, but having Susan Corbett champion this cause certainly can raise its profile. We welcome her to this important cause, and stand ready to provide our support to ongoing efforts to keep students in school.
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