The Challengers

Supporting Research

Starting with the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, focus has increased the accountability of high schools to meet the required education standards and improve graduation rates. States and Federal educational goals such as the Challenge to Lead goals have expanded to include a demand that all students are college or career ready. Preparing students to lead financially productive lives influences community and local business economy. In Florida alone, the projected non-graduation numbers for the class of 2009 is 103,990 students (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2009).  The Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) continues to predict that this number of non-graduates would result in a potential loss of lifetime income estimated slightly above $27 million. Miller, (2009) in AEE’s August policy brief forecasts that “unless high schools are able to graduate their students at higher rates, nearly 13 million students will drop out over the next decade. The result will be a loss to the nation of $3 trillion.”

Career/technical programs comparable to the one proposed for Glades County show a reduction in “a school’s dropout rate by as much as six percent” according to an assessment report on the High Schools That Work (HSTW) initiative (Southern Regional Education Board, ND). The report furnishes additional facts that indicate that “more than 60 percent of career/technical graduates at HSTW sites pursue further study” (Southern Regional Education Board, 2001) Benefits to the students are enhanced when rigorous academic skills are integrated with their career/technical studies.

Students asked why they dropped out of school articulated a sense of isolation and alienation, boredom, and uninteresting courses not relevant to their current or future goals as their top reasons for leaving high school prior to graduation (Bridgeland, DiIulio, & Morison, 2006). When asked what would have kept them in school, they offered suggestions which included real-world learning opportunities, interesting and dynamic teachers, and classes that allowed for individual instruction.

A 2006 report by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) addressing career or college readiness, discusses how the Partnership for 21st Century Skills “advocates that students should learn to use tools such as computers, the Internet and audio/video technologies to access, manage, integrate and evaluate information; draw conclusions; and communicate effectively.” It goes on to describe how technology “can help students develop these skills in core courses and deepen learning through word-processing programs, Internet search engines, e-mail, spreadsheets, time and project management software, and online courses.” (Southern Regional Education Board, 2006)

As expressed by the dropout students, teachers play a pivotal role in keeping them in school. “It is well established that teacher quality is one of the most significant school influences on student achievement” (Miller, 2009). Teachers need to be trained to educate all students to the highest standards, even those with diverse backgrounds and a wide variety of learning needs. In the past, teachers taught classes geared toward the motivated college-bound student with other non-college bound students held to lower standards. This approach must change to meet the new expectation of readying all students for college or career. Teacher programs, according to Levine (2006), face the challenge to “not to do a better job at what they are already doing, but to do a fundamentally different job” in preparing teachers for the current state of education.

Academically limited rural schools must expand to supplement their curriculum with online course to achieve career and college readiness. In a national survey of U.S rural schools, Hannum, Irvin, Banks, & Farmer (2009) indicated “81.3% of school administrators reported that they needed distance education to provide the advanced or enrichment courses that students wanted.” Many students already possess the study and computer skills necessary for success in an online distance education program. They just need the opportunity to utilize them.

Alliance for Excellent Education. (2009). The high cost of high school dropouts: What the nation pays for inadequate high schools. (Issue Brief). Washington, D.C. Retrieved November 5, 2009 from files/HighCost.pdf.

Bridgeland, J. M., DiIulio, J. J., & Morison, K. B. (2006). The silent epidemic: Perspectives of high school dropouts. Retrieved on November 10, 2009 from http://

Hannum, W. H., Irvin, M. J., Banks, J. B., & Farmer, T. W. (2009). Distance education use in rural schools. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 24(3). Retrieved November 5, 2009 from

Levine, A. (2006). Educating school teachers. The Education School Project. Washington, D.C., Retrieved November 5, 2009, from pdf/ Educating_Teachers_Report.pdf

Miller, M. (2009). Teaching for a new world: Preparing high school educators to deliver college- and career-ready instruction. (Policy Brief). Alliance for Excellent Education. Washington, D.C. Retrieved November 5, 2009 from TeachingForANewWorld.pdf.

Southern Regional Education Board. (2006). Getting students ready for college and careers. Atlanta, Ga. Retrieved on November 5, 2009 from Goals/Publications/06E04-Students_Ready_College_Career.pdf.

Southern Regional Education Board. (N.D.). Facts about high school career/technical studies. Atlanta, Ga. Retrieved on November 5, 2009 from hstw/career/facts_about_hs_career.pdf.

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