Dropout rate relates to crime rate

“A 5 percent increase in the high school graduation rate among males in West Virginia could save $100 million each year in crime-related costs as well as boost the state’s economy according to a national policy group.” The Charleston Gazette (Sept. 17, 2013) said these figures are based on a study by the Alliance for Excellent Education in Washington, D.C., under the leadership of former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise.

Schools may not be economically efficient, but they don’t cost as much as prisons. The cost of educating a student is $12,643, and the cost of incarcerating and inmate is $28,323 according to the study. Federal data shows that 56 percent of federal inmates and 69 percent of West Virginia inmates have not finished high school. Males are more likely to drop out than females.

Wise said, “The nation needs to focus dollars and efforts on reforming school climates to keep students engaged in ways that will lead them toward college and a career and away from crime and prison.”

Wise does not define what would make the school climate more supportive for young males who are likely to drop out of high school. We can pass laws that force students to stay in school longer, and West Virginia does not allow young people to get driver’s licenses if they drop out early, but what do we do to make school climate more engaging?

The concept of school climate is often related to the local culture where the school is located. Teachers and administrators may be able to change some factors within the school, but the community also needs to be more involved in helping to improve school climate.

Elkins always has been a town that supports its ball teams and marching band. The homecoming game attracted quite a crowd last Friday night, as usual; however, with no-pass-no-play laws, many students cannot be on the ball teams or in the band. We need to let them know that this community cares about them and their future.

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