It's called "dropout recovery," with districts deploying a host of strategies – from door-to-door searches for dropouts to alternative schools where people earn free college credits while taking their final high school courses. The efforts are taking place in dozens of cities ranging from Camden, N.J., to Alamo, Texas.
America has "long had a forgiving education system, where people can come back at any time to complete a diploma or finish a degree, but we haven't been structured to reach out and reengage youth who have dropped out," says Elizabeth Grant, chief of staff in the US Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. "As educators across the country saw more-accurate graduation and dropout numbers and recognized the size of the challenge, our school systems started to get more responsive."
The US Department of Education launched the High School Graduation Initiative in 2010 to support school districts doing dropout prevention and recovery work. Competitive grants were given out to 27 districts and two states, for a total of just under $50 million.
At least 15 cities have organized stand-alone reengagement centers. They offer a one-stop, personalized case-management approach – bringing together schools, private businesses, workforce-development experts, and other partners to try to reconnect young adults with a promising future.