WOW- this is a powerful and thought provoking question! I believe that there are a few ways to help students want to stay in school and reduce drop-out rates. However, my ideas may be a "little out of the box" for some- but here are my suggestions, regardless.
1. Identify, if possible, why a student may wish to drop out. Is there an undiagnosed learning disability? Does the student need to work to help support a family? Are the parents or parent not supportive of education or were themselves drop outs? Have an IEP put in place if the child does qualify for special education. Also, one may need to consider that students' drop out due to unidentified situations which involve bullying.
2. Connect with area leaders to help keep kids in school. Perhaps some students need a part- time job and this job-school arrangement can be made via local industries. Incentive programs can work, too. This could be vouchers to local businesses for attending school on a regular basis. Even a coupon to a movie theater may be the "ticket" to increasing school attendance.
3. Try to get the student involved in ANY school sanctioned activity. A child does not need to be an athlete or top musician to participate in school activities. Maybe there is a budding photographer, chef, car mechanic or another talent lurking within children who are at risk. Find mentors who will offer their time to nurture the untapped talents of these students. I believe that when a person feels that they have something of value to contribute then they will become invested in their program.
4. Work-study. Students may need alternative education that circumvents going to the actual school facility. On the job training may need to be considered with tutorial programs for the basics such as reading and math.
5. In my opinion, some of our math and English is too difficult for some of our students and this is why they drop out. They are met with failure in these core classes and know that they will not graduate without sufficient credits. Maybe a certificate of attendance with a speciality in a trade could be an option?
6. Volunteer programs- Sometimes seeing the world through another's eyes- such as that of a child with an illness- can be motivation to want to continue with education.
7. Pet Therapy- Many students may be motivated to come to school if they can have access to an animal. For some of our students, their homes are harsh conditions. Having a pet to visit during their school day may be reason enough for them to attend. A half-hour a day with a friendly dog, cat or rabbit could bring just enough sunshine to some kids days.
These are just a few of my suggestions. I would be interested in hearing from others and seeing if any of these are implemented and if they were successful.
Louise Sattler, NCSP
Nationally Certified School Psychologist
Owner of Signing Families