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Letter: Early intervention key in preventing drop-outs

['WS-xx-letter to the editor']
['WS-xx-letter to the editor']

This letter is in response to in to a CBC report on Sept. 13 titled “High schools face tough challenge as dropout rate looms over new academic year: nearly 5,000 students at risk of dropping out this year.” There is little argument that dropping out of school is harmful.

Indeed, staying in school is associated not only with improved economic strength and less dependency on social welfare, but is also linked, among other things, with an expansion of the middle class and reducing crime and drug use.

Another important issue we need to be aware of is that when you have large numbers of students from the same community failing to graduate, the social and economic costs can be weighty and intergenerational. This means that the issue of high school incompletion is not solely an educational one. If you have a significant number of young people leaving school early, this quickly becomes a social one.

To be really clear, if we are asking ourselves how can we help a 15-year-old return to school, then it is very likely that we have dropped the ball on this young person years ago. It is believed that children begin to disengage from school around grade five. My professional experience has this number closer to Grade 1. We need to put resources towards battling disengagement. Students do not decide one day that they are “dropping out.” The disengagement process is lengthy and starts years previous to this.

Early intervention has been shown to be effective in reducing drop-out rates.  Early intervention that is coupled with a community approach and one where schools, families and communities are well-coordinated in their efforts to support young people are even more effective.

Students who participate in what are known as expanded learning opportunities — which includes after-school programs — show higher rates of school attendance, lower dropout rates and improved attitudes toward school. We need youth–focused, flexible programs that meet the level of need with the level of support. We need to develop a strategic dropout prevention, intervention and recovery programs that partners with community and targets the reasons why kids become disengaged.

School cannot be everything to everyone. When the school doors close at 3 p.m. kids don’t disappear.  Engagement can take on many forms and doesn’t just happen in the classroom.  Most students who dropout do so for a combination of academic and social-emotional reasons. Therefore, we can have the best instruction and academic resources but this will have limited impact if we are not meeting their social-emotional needs.

Community groups need to gather the human and financial resources needed for a comprehensive and sustained programs that allows programs to deal with the social-emotional needs of our most at risk students.

The Boys and Girls Club of St. John’s supports over 750 children and teens every year in their afterschool and day camp programs. We believe that we play a key role in educational engagement and meeting the social-emotional needs of school aged children. This September we are seeing an increase in enrollment and believe resources need to be allocated to meet this need.


Jane Henderson

Executive Director

Boys and Girls Clubs of St. John’s




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