Blog: The Educated Reporter

Lowering Dropout Rate by Raising Age of Compulsory Attendance?

Ever since the Obama administration called on states to make kids stay in school to age 18, analysts have chimed in with thoughts and data points that put the idea into perspective.

Currently, 21 states have such laws on the books, and Massachusetts would join that list under a bill currently making its way through the legislature.

Still, education experts warn such a move is no panacea for addressing the dropout rate. In a Diverse article that appeared today, Jennifer Dounay Zinth, senior policy analyst for the Education Commission of the States, said raising the compulsory age of attendance is likely to only have a marginal effect unless classroom instruction becomes more meaningful. 

Others in the article said the president made the announcement to circumvent the political impasse on education in Congress, hoping to reach states directly by using his “bully pulpit.” Both Laura Bornfreund, senior education policy analyst at the New America Foundation, and Antonio Flores, president of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, view the president’s call as part of his broader efforts to boost the economy by improving workforce readiness and college completion rates. The more students who stay in the classroom, the more that graduate with at least a high school diploma and qualify for postsecondary programs and better jobs.

What are your thoughts? Is raising the age of compulsory attendance merely a quick legislative fix? Or does it hold genuine promise as a lever for lowering the dropout rate?

From a reporting standpoint, how does this issue resonate in your states and communities? Does it connect to other major themes in education, such as school spending disparities, teacher effectiveness, and the role socioeconomic factors play in student success?