« Loyola professor sounds off on teaching math | Main | Most states offer alternatives to high school tests »

November 3, 2009

Should the age for mandatory attendance be raised?

The Associated Press reported recently that Montgomery County's school board has made a  symbolic push to get the Maryland General Assembly to raise the age a student must stay in school to 18.

Currently, students can drop out at 16 and, the AP reports, only the legislature can change that. But Montgomery County, whose graduation rate has fallen to its lowest level -- 87 percent -- this spring, is hoping to change the tide by voting on a measure last week to make the change to age 18. Most of the students who drop out in the county are 16 and 17 year olds.

Should other school boards take the same stand to encourage the state legislature to pass a bill requiring all students to be in school until 18?


Posted by Liz Bowie at 8:06 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Around the Region


This change may be best for students, but it will cost a lot of money. Let's say you have 100 dropouts under 16. Right now, you don't staff your schools for those 100 students. If those students were required to be in school, at a student teacher ratio of 25:1, you automatically need 4 more teachers. For a county like Montgomery your talking about many, many teachers. While it might temporarily bump their graduation rate up, it would break the budget for Montgomery and most of the other counties in the state. This is not the right time to do this considering the budget situation that the state and counties are in right now. I can't believe that the Montgomery Board of Ed has actually thought this out. If they have thought it out, I wonder where they are going to get the money to pay for it.

"symbolic push" is exactly correct.

The "children" affected by these measures are by definition going to be the least motivated to remain when they aren't being forced to by law. Is that really what teachers and principals want in their halls?

Had the teachers and schools (and other factors) been doing what they are suppose to these "children" would be self motivated to stay if not to actually excel.

The only beneficiary of this scheme is the district which gets more funding based on higher populations. Their next step will be to extend beyond 18 to "graduation".

Another quote attributed to these MOCO folks: "...the state is basically projecting a certain number will drop out each year..."

As it has always done. There has always been a percentage of the student population which is NOT academically oriented. Forcing them to remain in an academic environment is not going to help them; let alone help the other students who do appreciate the academics.

The problem with a legal drop out age of 16 is NOT that it puts 16yo's out on the street. (at least not directly). The problem is that these particular 16yo's have been so woefully under served in meaningful education up to that point that they don't have the ability to get or to hold one of the too few jobs available to them. The second problem is that there are so few jobs available to them.

The schools can't do anything about the jobs situation but turning the schools into detention centers or using them to project infantalist view of incompetence on these teens abilities doesn't serve society or these teens any better.

I get the sense that educators don't want to accept that there are alternative means to honestly and decently provide for yourself and your family outside of the academic and collegiate track; let alone that a person choosing this could quickly earn more than the teacher who didn't actually teach them.

These less than academically ideal "children" have been identified as such for years prior to their 16th birthday. The time for measures to address them was similarly LONG before their 16th birthday.


If one is saved, we should attempt to save them.They should be made to stay in school until 18 or forced into some vocational training.16yo's maybe they should go strait to jail, chances are that's where they will woundup.Wake up people save America's future, by any means.

Perhaps this isn't the argument we should be having. More important than the drop out age is asking the question, what are schools doing to keep disenfranchised students in school. If kids aren't connecting with curriculum at 15, what makes us think they'll connect with it at 18. Instead, school districts need to find more engaging way to capture the attention of students. Perhaps more technology!

I am a teacher and on some level it is painful for me to say this, but school just isn't for everyone. I have a number of friends, all of whom are productive members of society, who opted to drop out of school at 16 for various reasons.

I don't see taking that option away as the realistic. Forcing students who don't want to be in school into classrooms without addressing the underlying reasons they don't want to (or can't) feel successful in them won't make for more productive adults, it will simply make for poor attendance and deferred choices.

Other options can (and do) exist: vocational training, GED programs, mentoring, apprenticeship, and actual employment. I would rather see our energy put into expanding these programs.

I think we can do a better job of educating our students about the reality of dropping out and offer them support if they do. Of course there will be an element of students who won't be interested in help, but there is also an element of students who stop going to school in 8th grade. That's the sad reality of urban education: you try and reach everyone, but at some point you have to accept that some lessons will be taught in the community, not the classroom.

Yes, I think the dropout age should be raised to 18 years of age. There was much discussion on the program this evening about decisions made, as to whether or not one should drop out. Get tough. Life is tough. You stay in school until you are 18 and if you don’t have your wits about you by that time, then it’s time to try some other avenue of lifestyle and earning a living. If you don’t graduate, good luck.

I think it should be raised to 18. 16 is too young to make a life altering decision- and for what? Because you don't feel like getting up in the morning? It's raining outside?

It's not only the strugglers that are dropping out, it's capable kids who are exercising their right to drop out at 16.

Require them to stay until 18, and create more options in schools that kids care about-graphic design, real-world work experiences, fashion, culinary arts, etc.

Angie tells us: "create more options in schools that kids care about-graphic design, real-world work experiences, fashion, culinary arts, etc.".

Angie, create those things and you will not need to coerce (most of) that population to remain in the building.

Create the option to identify such alternate tracks back in elementary school when they should be started and the regular academic programs will have to develop enticements to have students in their classrooms.

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Please enter the letter "p" in the field below:

2011 Valedictorians and Salutatorians
Most Recent Comments
Baltimore Sun coverage
Education news
• InsideEd's glossary of education jargon

School closings and delays's school closings database is designed to provide up-to-date, easy-to-access information in the event of inclement weather.

Find out if your school is participating and sign up for e-mail alerts.
Sign up for FREE local news alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local news text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Spread the word about InsideEd
Blog updates
Recent updates to news blogs
 Subscribe to this feed
Stay connected