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Letter: Educators should help kids in ninth grade avoid dropping out

Published October 25, 2013 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Re "Are Utah kids in school-to-prison pipeline?": It is a masterpiece ("Don't suspend kids for bahavior; it makes them drop out," Opinion, Oct. 20). It should be mandatory reading for every educator.

An extensive study by the South Carolina Department of Education found that both suspension and failure rates at ninth grade strongly correlate with dropout rates. Most high schools have the most suspensions and the highest failure rate at ninth grade. Reducing both suspensions and failures in ninth grade would significantly increase graduation rates.

Both suspensions and failures can be reduced by carefully assigning teachers to ninth grade, providing stronger counseling services to grade 9 students and by immediate intervention by teachers to alleviate possible failure. As the writers state: "The overuse of school discipline is contributing to the problem (high dropout rate)."

To that we can add a high failure rate, often caused by being suspended from school. By helping youngsters to better adjust to ninth grade and by assigning teachers to ninth grade who better understand young teenagers, we can have many more students graduate from our high schools.

They have done it in many states. Why not do it in Utah?

M. Donald Thomas

Executive Director

Public Education Support Group

Salt Lake City