Rebuilding Baton Rouge’s Schools
Every year, nearly 15,000 students in Louisiana drop out. The consequences for our community are real: Students who drop out are eight times more likely to become incarcerated or unemployed. City Year is turning this around. Using near-peer mentors and addressing specific areas that lead to students dropping out, we’re rebuilding Baton Rouge’s most underserved schools.
Students who drop out earn roughly $1 million less than high school graduates. Furthermore, out-of-school, out-of-work youths collectively cost Americans about $1.6 trillion in increased social services and lost earnings and taxes over the course of their lifetimes. But there is a solution. Using near-peer mentors in Baton Rouge’s most under-served schools to address specific areas that lead to students dropping out, City Year helps close the gap, between what students need to succeed and what schools are designed to provide.
After Hurricane Katrina, thousands of people took refuge in Baton Rouge. This population surge placed increased demands on the city’s school system. But City Year has eased the burden. Just 90 days after the storm, we arrived in Baton Rouge and have been working ever since, providing support to thousands of students in high-need Baton Rouge public schools.
Research from Johns Hopkins University shows that students who are at risk of dropping out can be identified as early as elementary school using three early warning indicators: poor attendance, disruptive behavior and course failure in math and English. A child who exhibits even one of these indicators as early as sixth grade has a 75 percent chance of dropping out. We call these the ABCs.
However, research shows that students who reach 10th grade on track and on time are four times more likely to graduate. We partner with school districts to place our AmeriCorps members in the schools that need us the most and provide students with one-on-one support to overcome challenges they face both in and out of school. And, in addition to working with individual students who are at-risk of dropping out, we also provide support to help transform the whole school – including leading school-wide events and activities, after school programming, and in class support for teachers.
Here’s what we do to help students stay on track to graduate:
Attendance monitoring and engagement: Roadblocks, like lack of transportation and family challenges, make it hard for some students to get to school. That’s why we keep an eye on attendance. This involves everything from talking with students about their challenges to simple gestures such as greeting them on their way into school. And when they aren’t there on time, we’ll make phone calls home.
Socio-Emotional support: We act as role models both through example and positive coaching. If students are having a hard time, we pull them aside and address their concerns, transforming their experience into a positive one.
Support in math and English: We also work closely with teachers to identify learning gaps and help differentiate instruction for students who need it most through one-on-one tutoring. We also create after school programs that help students succeed in math and English to stay on track and graduate with their peers.
Whole School Initiative