A new state law has school districts across Kentucky looking for 16 and 17-year-olds who dropped out of school in order to tell them they must return to school this fall.
A law from 2013 that increased the dropout age from 16 to 18 is set to go into effect in most districts in the state this fall, causing districts across the state to scramble to ensure that all affected students are enrolled unless they receive their GED by June 30. The law was implemented in an effort to improve the graduation rate across the state.
The graduation rate across the state was 87.5% last year and 86.1% in 2013. Officials would like to see the rate reach 88.7% this year.
Most dropouts in the state will be receiving letters regarding the new law, said Mike Ford, president of the Kentucky Directors of Pupil Personnel board. He added that pupil personnel directors for each district would be talking to principals with regards to programs that could be offered over the summer in order to help dropouts get back into the system.
"This first summer is going to be a challenge," Ford said. "What are you going to do this summer to help students start catching up?"
Districts such as Kenton County Schools are offering a number of options including vocational training, online classes and a military academy to help reduce the number of dropouts.
"The one thing that is a common thread for students that want to drop out is that they need choice, there's not a one-size-fits-all," Kenton County Schools spokesperson Jess Dykes said.
In addition, mentors are available to keep up with students and let them know their options.
"We're not just helping kids achieve their dreams academically, but we also want them to be good citizens," Dykes said.
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday added that the state will begin tracking students who left the public school system in order to be homeschooled to ensure they did not completely drop out. The state education department reported 5,129 students who withdrew from school to be homeschooled in the 2014-15 school year.
A $10,000 grant will be awarded to each district in the state from the Kentucky Department of Education to aid in the implementation of the law.
The policy has been approved by 173 districts in the state and all but 7 are set to implement the law this fall. Once 55% of districts across the state adopt the policy, it will become a statewide rule.
Students who do not attend school will be considered truant. Depending on local laws, their parents could be fined or face jail time.
Data from the DOE found the high school dropout rate in the state to be 2.3% for the 2013-14 school year.