Increasing the Age of Compulsory School Attendance in Maryland

:
An Effort to Strategically Reduce Student Dropout Rates to Curb Youth Violence

Bill Ferguson Term Paper Submission for Crime in Maryland – Spring 2008 Professor Kittrie May 23, 2008

Strategically Reducing Youth Violence & Dropout Rates in Maryland

Ferguson, Spring 2008

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Over the past ten years, the Maryland legislature has grappled with the issue of whether to increase the age of compulsory school attendance from 16 to 18. While the decision to increase the mandatory attendance age warrants discussion in its own right, the purpose of this paper is to evaluate how such a reform effort would affect two of Maryland‟s most significant and interrelated social problems: disproportionately high student dropout rates and cases of youth violence. Focusing on education as a critical lever for social change, Baltimore City‟s State Senator, Cathy Pugh, recently introduced SB 436 - Education – Age of Compulsory Attendance – Exemptions. The bill would have increased Maryland‟s legal dropout age from 16 to 17. During the Maryland General Assembly‟s 2008 Session, SB 436 gained significant traction until financial concerns halted the bill‟s legislative progress. After passing the State Senate, the General Assembly adjourned without a vote on the bill in the House – effectively killing Sen. Pugh‟s attempt to use compulsory school attendance requirements as a vehicle for reducing Maryland‟s juvenile problems. The paper looks at the history of SB 436 in the context of Maryland‟s efforts to improve the lives of juveniles in the state and relates the bill‟s efforts to the overarching and comprehensive effort to reduce youth violence and promote academic achievement. After

considering relevant research and contributions obtained through formal and informal interviews, the author concludes with several findings and offers several recommendations to Maryland policymakers. First, a connection likely exists between high school graduation rates and criminal activity, especially in regards to youth violence. Second, Maryland likely would see a reduction

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in crime after increasing the age of compulsory attendance – the reform is both financially efficient and proactively sound. Third, any increase in the compulsory age of school attendance must include additional and supplemental reforms in order to maximize the bill‟s impact. Without such supplements, the legislative reform is unlikely to affect substantial change. Finally, Maryland could benefit significantly by (1) supporting efforts to increase the age of compulsory school attendance; (2) creating a statewide student-identification numbering and tracking system; (3) creating an integrated, interagency student-database to assist efforts to offer tiered levels of intervention to targeted at-risk populations; and (4) establishing a citywide mission statement founded in proactive, strategic, and targeted service provision.

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INTRODUCTION During the 2008 Maryland General Assembly Session, difficult questions confronted Maryland‟s legislators: At what age should the state of Maryland allow a student to drop out of school? Senator Catherine Pugh (D – 40th) sponsored a bill, S.B. 436, Education – Age of Compulsory Attendance - Exemptions, that would have amended Md. Code Ann., Education, §7301, to increase the age of compulsory school attendance for students from 16 to 17 (after amendments).1 While S.B. 436 failed during the 2008 Session, the bill‟s potential passage in the future presents serious questions as to whether such an effort would be effective at reducing student dropout and, potentially more importantly, addressing serious concerns of youth violence in the state. Interestingly, Maryland presents a state of stark socioeconomic contrast. While yearly estimates place the state as the richest in the nation,2 Maryland also ranks as the second mostperilous state in terms of violent crime per capita.3 Furthermore, Maryland has some of the best public schools in America, yet the state‟s graduation rate disparity between urban and suburban centers is the worst in the nation.4 Why does this severe disparity exist, and how can Maryland officials work to ameliorate it? Specifically, assuming the existence of the strong inverse

relationship between educational achievement and violent criminal behavior, how does raising the compulsory age of school attendance really affect educational outcomes and youth violence?

1

As introduced, S.B. 436 would have increased the mandatory attendance age to 18. However, Senator Pugh introduced two friendly amendments – one to include a financial security outlet and another to lower the age requirement from 18 to 17. As amended, the Senate bill passed third reader in a full vote of the Senate (27-20). 2 Crime in the United States by Region, Geographic Division, and State, 2005-2006, 2006 Crime in the United States, Federal Bureau of Investigation (2007), http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2006/data/table_04.html (data table). 3 Nicole Fuller, Death on the Streets; Homicides Make City 2nd-Most Perilous in Nation, The Baltimore Sun, June 5, 2007; Les Christie, The Richest (and Poorest) Places in the U.S., CNNMoney, August 30, 2007. 4 Christopher B. Swanson, Cities in Crisis: A Special Report on High School Graduation, EPE Research Center, America‟s Promise Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 9 (2008) (cumulative study). 3

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Additionally, can a statewide mandate from the Maryland General Assembly effectively address issues that may be jurisdictionally distinct? In Baltimore City, Maryland‟s largest metropolitan area, more than 6 out of 10 (65.4%) students fail to graduate from high school with a diploma.5 In comparing Baltimore‟s dropout rate to the counties surrounding the City, the empirical evidence proves the existence of the utter educational disparity between Maryland‟s urban-suburban jurisdictions - on average the gap between urban and suburban dropout rates is 47.0%.6 Ultimately, educational systems in

Maryland‟s urban centers are failing, and the youth violence statistics that accompany these failures are drastic. With such wealth, criminal activity, and educational disparity, the state has serious problems that need in-depth attention. Sen. Pugh has taken public education, the vehicle she believes to be the most effective at stimulating social change, to “attack social problems in Maryland.”7 In doing so, Sen. Pugh attempted to champion SB 436 (1) to increase the

graduation rate of students in Maryland and (2) to promote the concept that Maryland‟s criminal activity is contingent upon Maryland‟s dropout rate.8 By keeping kids in school, Senator Pugh believes the state will benefit from a better educated populace and a lower incidence of violent juvenile crime.9 The purpose of this analysis is to examine whether or not Sen. Pugh‟s legislative effort is worthwhile, justified, or misguided. The paper asks the following questions: (a) Is there a connection between student dropout rates and youth violence in Maryland or in the nation as a

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Id. Id. at 11 (Maryland‟s metropolitan, suburban areas have an average graduation rate of 81.5% as compared to the urban districts‟ average graduation rate of 34.6%). 7 Personal Interview with Catherine Pugh, Maryland State Senator (March 4, 2008). 8 Id. 9 Id. 4

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whole; (b) if evidence suggests that a connection between the issues exists, will increasing the compulsory attendance age make a difference; (c) what supplemental supports are necessary to enhance the effectiveness of increasing the compulsory age of attendance to have a significant effect on reducing student dropout rates and youth violence; (d) is such an effort financially or politically worthwhile; and (e) as compared to other attempts in similarly situated states, is such a reform effort an effective way to approach youth issues in Maryland? To attempt to answer these questions, this analysis rests on several assumptions. The paper focuses primarily on Baltimore City as a threshold center of needed reform. The

metropolitan area contributes the most significantly to crime statistics and statewide dropout rates. Whether a reform effort works in Baltimore is critical to any overall, statewide effort at reducing youth violence or the state‟s exceedingly high student dropout rates. Second, the paper uses a relatively significant amount of research from outside Maryland to make conclusions about policy decisions for Maryland officials. Thus, conclusions are based on the assumption that aggregated national data about youth violence and student dropout applies sufficiently to an analysis about Maryland‟s reform efforts. Ultimately, by using nationwide evidence in

combination with Maryland-specific resources, the paper may inform Maryland‟s decision makers in such a way that they can most effectively take measures to reduce youth violence and student dropout problems in the state. Given this basic framework and set of assumptions, the paper evaluates the scope of Maryland‟s juvenile dropout and youth violence problems; examines potential links and causes of these juvenile-related problems; and analyzes intervention efforts taking place in Maryland and across the country.

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SCOPE OF THE PROBLEMS To determine whether an increase in the age of compulsory school attendance would affect crime rates in Maryland, the paper must examine the scope of each. The following section establishes the context of Maryland‟s problems with student dropout, youth violence, a connection between the two, and implications of inaction. A. The Dropout Problem

The dropout problem is not unique to Maryland. As The Case for Reform points out, “The United States has a dropout epidemic.”10 Engaging in extensive interviews and dataanalysis, Dr. Robert Balfanz, a Johns Hopkins University Professor and leading researcher in education reform, attempted to explain the extent of the nationwide dropout epidemic. He coined the phrase “dropout factories” to label the 1,700 schools that accounted for nearly 90% of the entire country‟s dropout rate.11 Combined with earlier findings, Dr. Balfanz writes, “Nearly half of the nation‟s African American students, nearly 40% of Latino students, and only 11% of white student attend high schools in which graduation is not the norm.”12 Nearly all of the “dropout factory” high schools are located in areas of high poverty, and the disproportionate representation of minorities in these schools is overwhelmingly replicated across states and school districts.13 On average almost 7,000 students become dropouts each day, leading to over 1.2 million dropouts annually throughout the nation.14

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John M. Bridgeland, John J. DiIulio, Jr., Ryan Streeter, Raising the Compulsory School Attendance Age: The Case for Reform, Report by Civic Enterprises, the Case Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 3 (2007). 11 Robert Balfanz, More Information on the Methodology, Data, and Terms Used in the AP Dropout Factory Story, Johns Hopkins Center for Social Organization, http://web.jhu.edu/CSOS/images/AP.html (2007). 12 Robert Balfanz and Nettie Legters, Locating the Dropout Crisis, Johns Hopkins Center for Social Organization of Schools, 2 (2004). 13 Id. 14 Alliance for Excellent Education, The High Cost of High School Dropouts: What the Nation Pays for Inadequate High Schools, Issue Brief, 1 (October 2007). 6

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While Dr. Balfanz‟s research shows that the dropout epidemic certainly is intense throughout the country, Maryland is responsible for relatively few “dropout factories.” Of Maryland‟s 175 qualifying high schools, only 12 (6.9%) qualified for “dropout factory” status.15 While this number is not ideal, the state has an average, statewide graduation rate of 79.5%. Generally, this overall percentage is to be expected: Maryland houses extensive wealth and offers some of the best schools in the nation.16 Realistically, the issue in Maryland is the concentration of poverty in specific communities that leads to focal points of educational inequity. On April 1, 2008, America‟s Promise Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation issued a report on the findings of a nationwide investigation into high school graduation rates. Based on the research of Dr.

Christopher B. Swanson, the Director of Editorial Projects at the Education Research Center, the prestigious report, Cities in Crisis, confirmed Maryland‟s intense issue of socioeconomic disparity: the educational inequity that exists in Maryland far surpasses any other state in the country. Comparing dropout rates of urban centers to surrounding counties‟ school districts, Dr. Swanson created the measurement he titled the “urban-suburban gap” – the difference between the average graduation rates of an urban school district and the rates of the surrounding metropolitan, suburban school districts.17 The findings placed Baltimore as the American city with the greatest gap between urban and suburban districts in comparison to the other 50 most

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Balfanz, More Information, (downloadable table). PRIDE Maryland Public Schools, Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), Fall/Winter 2008 Edition, located at http://marylandpublicschools.org/NR/rdonlyres/90B82119-53AE-4CDE-8CCA-2CD797C60A9B/16486/ pride_fall_winter_07_08_041408.pdf. 17 Swanson, Cities in Crisis at 10. 7

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populous urban centers in the country.18 However, prior to this report‟s publication, Maryland‟s measurement systems erroneously misreported dropout rates in the state. Maryland‟s current means of tracking student dropout is ineffective. The Maryland State Department of Education tracks dropout rates by comparing the number of 12th graders enrolled in public schools at the beginning of one school year and compares the number to those receiving a diploma at the end of that same school year. By basing decisions on this one-year, focused approach to calculating student dropout rates, Maryland policymakers work from a distorted view of school success in Maryland. The measurement does not account effectively for students who do not reach the 12th grade before dropping out of school.19 With this measurement, MSDE puts Baltimore City‟s yearly dropout rate at 9.56%, which substantially underestimates the scope of the problem.20 Instead, using a new method (Cumulative Promotion Index) to more accurately calculate dropout rates, Dr. Swanson‟s report in Cities in Crisis listed Baltimore City‟s average graduation rate at 34.6%, meaning that over 6 of 10 students entering Baltimore City schools did not graduate from high school in 2003.21 This number differs significantly from the publicly

reported number provided by MSDE. However, Dr. Swanson‟s CPI takes into account the dropout that occurs within each year of high school and captures those lost before the 12th grade (see FN22). In one year, then, the CPI shows not only those students who dropped out during their 12th grade year but also the students who dropped out before reaching their 12th grade

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Id. at 11. Personal Interview with Jonathan Brice, Director of Student Services, Baltimore City Public School System, April 25, 2008. 20 The Fact Book 2006-2007: A Statistical Handbook, Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) (2007), available at http://marylandpublicschools.org/NR/rdonlyres/FCB60C1D-6CC2-4270-BDAA-153D67247324/ 14998/FACT_BOOK_20062007.pdf. 21 Id. 8

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year.22 When a greater percentage of student dropout occurs prior to the 12th grade, MSDE‟s reports inaccurately underestimate the scope of student dropout in Maryland. As further credit to Dr. Swanson‟s method, the U.S. Department of Education has endorsed the CPI, and the Department is hosting a summit to consider requiring that all states use the CPI measurement in order to receive federal No Child Left Behind funding.23 Returning to Dr. Balfanz‟s research, the picture again becomes more reflective when looking at 12 schools contributing to the “dropout factory” problem in Maryland. Of the 12, five of the “factory” schools are located in Baltimore City and three are located in Prince George‟s County – of these eight, the 4 with the lowest retention rates are all located in Baltimore City.24 The disparity is not evenly located throughout the state. 25 With Maryland‟s statewide graduation average at 79.5% and the most troubled schools located in just 5 locations, the dropout rate disparity and inequity makes statistical sense. Additionally, the MSDE Task Force commissioned in 2006, charged with examining the effects of raising the compulsory age of attendance in Maryland, found that of the 10,481 dropouts across the state, nearly 50% of the total dropouts and retained students came from just two of twenty-four total jurisdictions: Baltimore City (2,898) and Prince George‟s County (1,863). Evidently, Baltimore City and Prince George‟s County disproportionately account for the state‟s dropout epidemic. Any effective strategy aimed at redressing the dropout problem

22

Swanson, Cities in Crisis at 7 (where equation is CPI Measurement for 2003 = (10 graders, fall 2004 / 9th graders, fall 2003) X (11th graders, fall 2004 / 10 graders, fall 2003) X (12th graders, fall 2004 / 11th graders, fall 2003) X (diploma recipients, spring 2004 / 12th graders, fall 2003)). 23 Sam Dillon, U.S. to Require States to Use a Single School Dropout Formula, The New York Times Online, April 1, 2008. 24 Dropout Factories: Take a Closer Look at Failing Schools Across the Country, AP Credits (website interactive report), located at http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/wdc/dropout/index.html; where retention rates “refers to the percentage of children who make it from freshman to senior year.” 25 Of the 4 remaining “dropout factories,” two are located in Talbot County, one is located in Anne Arundel County, and one is located in St. Mary‟s County. Each of these schools is located in low-income communities within the jurisdiction. 9

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necessarily would have to focus on these two jurisdictions to have a realistic effect on the state as a whole. Furthermore, the institution of the CPI as the appropriate method of measuring student dropout provides a sounder context from which to frame the urgency and need for reform. B. The Crime Problem

Like the dropout epidemic, crime follows nationwide trends, and Maryland suffers from excessive rates of violence, particularly among youths. In fact, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation‟s 2006 Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) statistics, Maryland had the second highest rate of robbery and criminal homicide per capita in the entire country.26 Over the period of 2001 to 2005, the statewide homicide total managed to increase steadily from 463 in 2001 to 552 in 2005.27 Total statewide robberies increased similarly over the period from 13,707 in 2000 to 14,378 in 2005.28 The total violent crime reports do not mirror this five-year increase and generally fluctuated between 39,300 and 42,000 total violent crimes over the period.29 While these numbers may be surprising for such a wealthy state, the picture becomes clearer upon examination of data-subsets within the statewide accumulation. For the same 5 year period, Baltimore City accounted for nearly 50% of the state‟s homicides.30 In evaluating the total violent crimes in the state – Baltimore City accounts for nearly 1/3 of all violent crime UCR reports and Prince George‟s County accounts for an additional quarter (ranging from 21% - 24%

26

2006 Crime in the United States, Federal Bureau of Investigation (2007), http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2006/data/table_04.html. 27 Maryland Crime Statistics with Crime Rates, Maryland Governor‟s Office of Crime Control & Prevention (2008) (downloadable link of statistics compiled by Maryland State Police), http://www.goccp.org/four/research/ucr/revisedviolentcrime.xls. 28 Id. 29 Id. 30 Id. 10

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depending on the year).31 In a state with twenty-four distinct jurisdictions, two in particular make up nearly 75% of all reported, violent crime.32 Furthermore, a belief exists among some prominent Baltimore City residents, including Congressman Elijah Cummings (D – 7th), that UCR crime statistics may not represent the true extent of violent crime in Baltimore. These individuals believe that Baltimore City suffers from a severe problem of citizen-underreporting, meaning that the jurisdiction‟s contribution to statewide crime numbers may be even higher than 50% of total violent crime in the state.33 Suffice to conclude, crime certainly is a serious issue in Maryland, particularly in Baltimore City and Prince George‟s County. A critical component of overall crime in Maryland includes youth violence and juvenile contribution to criminal activity. Generally, youth violence in Maryland has followed

nationwide trends. Reports indicate that an increase in juvenile crime occurred during the 1990s, but a slow recession took place in the years leading up to 2000.34 As incidents of violent crime have remained steady or slightly increased over recent years, trends show that greater numbers of juvenile offenders are involved in crimes of gun violence related to narcotics dealing.35 Other important trends have shown that (1) increasingly greater number of youth has been charged with gun possession; (2) any decrease in arrests of juveniles for violent crimes may be balanced by the increase in arrests for juveniles involved in property crimes and drug-related offenses; and (3) juveniles disproportionately make up the number of the victims of crime nationwide.36

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Id. Id. 33 Class Discussion with Elijah Cummings, Congressman (D – 7th), United States House of Representatives (March 27, 2008). 34 Peter W. Greenwood, Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice, Crime: Public Policies for Crime Control, 75 (2004). 35 Gus G. Sentementes, Patterns Persist in City Killings; Victims, Suspects Usually Black Men with Long Criminal Records; Rate Is Among Highest in U.S., The Baltimore Sun, January 1, 2007 at 1A. 36 Id. at 76-80. 11

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Maryland has suffered persistently from violent crimes perpetrated by juveniles. Over the time period of 2000-2005, Maryland juveniles have been arrested for roughly 10% of homicides, 13% of rapes, 37% of robberies, 33% of property crimes, 33-37% of disorderly conduct charges, 31 – 36.8% of weapons charges, and over 54% of vandalism charges.37 Furthermore, juvenile contributions to robberies, property crimes, disorderly conduct charges, weapons charges, and vandalism charges have been significant. While a significant contingency of Maryland children are juvenile offenders, a greater contingency of Maryland children are juvenile victims, particularly in Baltimore City.38 The Baltimore City Health Department conducted a study of childhood deaths in the City from 20022006. The findings showed that the most common type of fatal injury for youths in Baltimore City was homicide – 59% of all fatal injuries (as compared to “suicides,” “accidents,” and “undetermined”).39 The fatal injury rate for children in Baltimore (30.7 deaths per 100,000 children per year) is double that of Maryland as a whole (14.4 per 100,000 per year) and double that of the average of the entire United States (14.7 per 100,000 children per year).40 Thus, Baltimore City children die from injury related deaths at a rate double that of children in Maryland and the United States, and “this disparity was largely due to the higher rate of child homicides in Baltimore City - … five times higher than the Maryland rate and over eight times higher than the national rate.”41

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Easy Access to FBI Arrest Statistics: 2000-2005, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice (2008), http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/ezaucr/asp/ucr_display.asp. 38 Understandably, one does not necessitate the other. A child may be both an offender and a victim, but overall the percentage of offenders is less than the overall percentage of juvenile victims of violent crime. 39 Office of Epidemiology and Planning, Childhood Deaths in Baltimore City 2002-2006, Baltimore City Health Department, February 7, 2008 (prepared for the Baltimore City Child Fatality Review Team). 40 Id. at 6. 41 Id. 12

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C.

The Connection

Numerous reports and studies conclude that a strong connection exists between populations‟ high school dropout rates and criminal activity. The most obvious place to begin an investigation into the link between graduation rates and crime is inside the nation‟s prisons. The Bureau of Justice Statistics has provided an overview of various characteristics of inmates in America‟s federal and state prisons using 2003 as a basis year for examination. In general, 18% of the general population in 2003 had not received a high school diploma.42 If 18% of prison inmates in 2003 were high school dropouts, then no link would have been be evident on the basis of a general population comparison.43 However, in federal prisons, over 40% of the population qualified as being a high school dropout.44 More significantly, in America‟s state prisons, an average of 68% of inmates had dropped out of school without receiving a diploma.45 The disparity between state and federal prison composition is natural because state courts prosecute general criminal charges on a more frequent basis than do federal prosecutors. Issues surrounding truancy serve as another indicator of the connection between dropout rates and youth violence. Excessive truancy is a leading signal that a student is at-risk of dropping out. Almost every high school dropout was at one point an excessive truant.46 The Open Society Institute – Baltimore (OSI – Baltimore) and the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) have conducted numerous analyses on the long-term effect of excessive truancy. Using research based on a Colorado program, OSI – Baltimore concluded, “Truant youth are more likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system. A study of Colorado youth found that
42

Caroline Wolf Harlow, Education and Correctional Populations, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, 1-2 (2003). 43 Id. 44 Id. 45 Id. 46 Presentation on Truancy by Molly Farneth, Program Assistant, Open Society Institute – Baltimore, et al. (February 25, 2008) (provided in Student Attendance Fact Sheet); Youth Out of School: Linking Absence to Delinquency, Colorado Foundation for Families and Children (2002). 13

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over 90% of youth in juvenile detention have a history of truancy.”47 Other effects of chronic absence included low academic achievement (another predictor of future dropout), delinquency, and severe substance abuse.48 On May 9, 2008, the Baltimore City Public School System in combination with the Baltimore City Health Department released a public report to highlight the connection between youth violence and student dropout and/or truancy.49 The report showed that of the 391

Baltimore City youths for which the school system had attendance data and who were either killed or injured in a non-fatal shooting from 2003-2007, the average attendance of these students before death or injury was 68% - on average these victims missed 46 days of school annually. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of these individuals had been expelled or suspended at least once before the death or injury. This report provided increasingly strong evidence to link Baltimore City students‟ school attendance rates to their likelihood of becoming injured or killed by gun violence. D. The Implications

When communities exist with large populations of individuals who have not attained a high school diploma, the costs to society are vast. Costs associated with dropouts include direct payments to individuals in the form of welfare or social assistance programs needed when dropouts cannot find gainful employment; indirect payments in the form of subsidized living expenditures and job-training programs; hidden payments in the form of money spent by government agencies dealing with collateral repercussions of maintaining a dropout population (increased health costs, policing expenditures, prison costs, etc.).

47 48

Id. PowerPoint Presentation provided by Molly Farneth, Program Assistant, Open Society Institute – Baltimore (February 25, 2008). 49 Sara Neufeld & Annie Linskey, Out of School, Risking Violence, The Baltimore Sun, May 9, 2008 at 1A. 14

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Individuals that have not received a high school diploma earn significantly less throughout their working careers. Workers who have attained at least a high school diploma earn on average 43% more during their working lives than their peers who did not receive a diploma or qualified GED certificate.50 By staying in high school one year longer, researches have estimated that a person can increase earnings potential by nearly 10%.51 Over an individual‟s lifetime, the disparity in earned income between dropouts and high school graduates can be as large as $120,000 to $244,000 for females and as great as $117,000 to $322,000 for males. 52 On a yearly basis, high school dropouts earn $9,200 less than their peers with high school degrees, and the dropout population is “twice as likely [than high school graduates] to slip into poverty from one year to the next.”53 The job market in America does not accommodate large classes of individuals who have not received a high school diploma. The contemporary economy has introduced a significantly larger influx of international trade which has caused stark and sophisticated changes in capital and production markets. Economists predict that 46% of all jobs created until the year 2014 will require an individual to have a post-secondary degree for qualification.54 Should the dropout crisis worsen alongside the continued sophistication of the job market, the impact on overall unemployment levels (and the collateral effects associated with high unemployment rates) will increase dramatically.

50 51

Bridgeland, Case for Reform at 3. Id. 52 Id. 53 John Bridgeland, John J. DiIulio, Jr. & Karen Burke Morison, The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts, Civic Enterprises in association with Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2003). 54 Irwin Kirsch, Henry Braun & Kentaro Yamamoto, America’s Perfect Storm: Three Forces Changing Our Nation’s Future, Policy Information Report, Educational Testing Services, 3 (2007). 15

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According to the US Census Bureau, high school dropouts had a 46.1% unemployment rate in 2006. 55 With such high unemployment rates, high school dropouts, who are generally high consumers of government subsidies, contribute nearly $60,000 less in taxes over their employment lifetimes as compared to similar individuals who had obtained a high school degree.56 One economist, Philip Oreopoulos, found that “students [who earn a high school degree] are less likely to report being unemployed, having health problems, being depressed, and working in lower-skilled jobs.” 57 Many individuals without a high school diploma are likely to require public assistance as a result of their lower earnings potential and greater difficulty in finding gainful employment. According to researchers‟ opinions reproduced in Education Week, “It is practically impossible for individuals lacking a high school diploma to earn a living or participate meaningfully in civic life.”58 Researchers have found that public health costs attributed to high school dropouts are as high as $85 billion annually.59 Direct public assistance costs to high school dropouts through Medicaid, welfare, and housing subsidies are as high as $10 billion annually.60 Nationally, if the dropout rate for minorities decreased to match the dropout rate for white students by 2020, the U.S. would see a $310 billion increase in the U.S. economy from gains in personal income.61 When the Alliance for Excellent Education examined 2003-2004 ninth graders exhibiting likely signs of dropping out before graduation, the organization estimated that Maryland

55

Jane Sundius & Molly Farneth, Missing School: Habitual Truancy and Chronic Absence, Open Society Institute – Baltimore, 7 (2008). 56 C.E. Rouse, Labor Market Consequences of an Inadequate Education, paper prepared for the symposium on the Social Costs of Inadequate Education, Teachers College of Columbia University (October 2007). 57 Bridgeland, Case for Reform at 5 (citing Philip Oreopoulos, Do Dropouts Drop Out Too Soon?, NBER Working Paper W10155 (December 2003), http://www.economics.utoronto.ca/oreo/research/dropouts/details.htm). 58 Ruth Curran Neild, Robert Balfanz & Lisa Herzog, An Early Warning System, 65 Educational Leadership 28, 28 (October 2007). 59 Bridgeland, Case for Reform at 3. 60 Id. 61 Alliance for Excellent Education, High School Dropouts in America, FactSheet, 3 (September 2007). 16

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dropouts in this cohort (19,909 students) would forego a combined $5,176,228,200 of potential income that they would have earned had they finished high school.62 Further, as of the year 2000 in Maryland, almost 20% of the statewide population failed to earn a high school degree and may not be fully contributing to the state‟s economy (see Table 1).
Table 1

Spending on the dropout epidemic occurs in private industry as well. Businesses spend incredible amounts of resources compensating for unqualified workers when forced to hire from the dropout population. In a 2001 report, the National Association of Manufacturers estimated that American businesses spend more than $60 billion a year on training workers for remedial reading, writing, and mathematics.63 Secondary and collateral costs associated with dropout populations often derive from criminal justice expenditures and criminal detainment. Where on average “the nation spends $9,644 a year to educate a student,”64 the annual cost of detaining a prison inmate is $22,600.65 While not every high school dropout who engages in crime would do otherwise were he or she to
62 63

Alliance for Excellent Education, The High Cost of High School Dropouts, Issue Brief (October 2007). Alliance for Excellent Education, The Impact of Education on: The Economy, FactSheet (November 2003). 64 National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education 2003, Indicator 22: Postsecondary Attainment of 1988 8th Graders, U.S. Department of Education (2003), available at http://nces.ed.gov/programs /coe/2003/pdf/22_2003.pdf. 65 J. Steven, State Prison Expenditures, 2001, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, U.S. Department of Justice (2002). 17

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attain a high school degree, more educated individuals are less likely to engage in criminal behavior.66 Indirect costs of the dropout problem also are linked to expenditures in criminal justice systems. Because high school dropouts account for a greater percentage of individuals involved in the criminal justice system, public justice expenditures disproportionally flow to handle issues associated with these individuals. Overall, economists have found that increasing the nationwide male graduation rate by 5% would yield “annual crime-related savings to the nation” of approximately $5 billion.67 These criminal justice expenditures accrue in prison construction and maintenance as well. The Pew Center on the States, recently issued a nationwide report that evaluated the growth in prison populations and expenditures associated with prison expansions.68 Generally, researchers found that prison populations were composed of a disproportionate number of minorities, and researchers found that the rate at which states were imprisoning minorities has risen rapidly over the last 20 years.69 With an increase in the criminal detainment of minorities and the increased size of prison populations nationwide, states have spent increasingly greater proportions of state funds on the marginal costs of maintaining the greater prison population. On average, states have increased spending on corrections costs by 127% over the past 20 years while allocations to higher education have only increased by 21% over the same time period.70 State authorizes often must make difficult choices when allocating public funds, and recognizing the link between education and criminal activity should assist policymakers‟

66 67

Alliance for Excellent Education, Saving Futures, Saving Dollars, Issue Brief at 2 (August 2006). Id. at 2; L. Lochner & E. Moretti, The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports, 94 American Economic Review 155 (2004). 68 Jenifer Warren et al., One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008, The Pew Charitable Trusts, 69 Id. at 6. 70 Id. at 15. 18

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budgetary priorities. Maryland‟s ratio of spending on higher education in relation to corrections is roughly 1 to 0.74; for every dollar spent on higher education, 74 cents goes towards corrections. Maryland spends about $1.084 billion on state corrections, and this amount

accounts for about 7.6% of the state‟s General Fund expenditure.71 The state is only one of five that has reduced relative expenditures on corrections over the past 20 years (in proportion to the total budget).72 However, in relation to the other 50 states, Maryland has the 14th highest expenditure on corrections expenses as compared to spending on higher education.73 If

Maryland were able to reduce criminal activity and thereby decrease the overall prison population, significant amounts of public dollars likely could shift towards more productive ventures, namely the reduction of tuition costs of higher public education institutions. Ultimately, an incredible amount of resources are already spent on communities composed of large numbers of student dropouts. Society very likely losses an incredible amount of money in lost wages and lost tax revenues by permitting a large dropout population to exist and expand. Furthermore, direct and indirect public expenditure at all levels of government for this problem is extensive, costly, and burdensome. Lowering the number of dropouts and the associated social problems that accompany such populations very possibly could open funds for alternative public programs, stimulate growth in personal wealth, relieve heavy tax burdens, and streamline government action towards more proactive and high-yield investments.

71 72

Warren et al., One in 100 at 14. Id. 73 Id. at 14, 16. 19

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CAUSES OF THE PROBLEMS Sound evidence points towards the severe problems that result from juvenile crime and the student dropout crisis in Maryland, understanding why these problems persist is extremely important to framing the context of the current efforts at reducing these social ills in Maryland. A. The Underlying Rationales

Juvenile crime and student dropout result from eerily similar stimuli. In The Silent Epidemic, researchers used qualitative interviews to speak with high school dropouts to determine what underlying causes pushed them to leave school. The researchers found that the majority of individuals‟ reasons for leaving stemmed from a “lack of connection to the school environment; academic challenges; and weight of real world events.” 74 Other reasons stated for dropout included poor grades, behavioral problems, high truancy rates, deficient credit accumulation, and low student engagement.75 For those dropouts that made their way into the criminal justice system, nearly 1 in 6 noted that they had dropped out of school because of a criminal conviction.76 When evaluating the rationales for juvenile crime, the most important statistic for analyzing data lies in the use of arrest rates as measured by the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). Because UCR numbers do not necessarily represent accurately the juvenile youth contribution to overall crime levels, the arrest rates and survey results through the NCVS are critical for evaluating the trends of violence among youths.77

74 75

Bridgeland et al., The Silent Epidemic at iii. American Alliance for Excellent Education, High School Dropout at 1-2. 76 Harolow, Education and Correctional Populations at 3. 77 Peter W. Greenwood, Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice, in Crime: Public Policies for Crime Control (James Q. Wilson & Joan Petersilia eds., Institute for Contemporary Studies) (2004). 20

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Among juvenile inmates across the country, nearly 84% have had previous contact with the criminal justice system.78 Older teens are more likely to commit violent crime than younger teens.79 Minorities in low-income areas tend to overwhelmingly compose the majority of

offenders and victims of violent crime.80 Juveniles ranging from age 12-17 are most at-risk of becoming a victim of violent crime in urban centers when compared to their peers in suburban and rural areas.81 Ultimately, the children that are most at-risk of committing violent crimes as they grow older are the same children that are at-risk of dropping out of school before receiving a high school diploma. Dr. Philip Leaf, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence and a Professor in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, recently issued a policy brief to discuss the connection that likely exists between youth violence and academic failure. While focusing on youth violence prevention, Dr. Leaf notes that the most significant indicators among at-risk youth who engaged in violence include “incidents of the child fighting, crimes or status offenses, victimization, childhood substance abuse. […]At the family level, risk factors include inconsistent or harsh parenting and family conflict. [During adolescence], poor peer relations, involvement in gangs, lack of a connection to school and living in a violence neighborhood [serve as risk factors].”82 Similarly, in 2007, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a prominent Baltimore philanthropic institution, reported that the leading factors that led elementary students in Baltimore to become truant or to dropout included “living in poverty, [facing] multiple family risks (e.g. the student‟s

78 79

Garen Wintemute, Guns and Gun Violence, The Crime Drop in America, 52 (2006). Katrina Baum, Juvenile Victimization and Offending, 1993-2003, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, 1-3 (August 2005). 80 Id. 81 Id. at 5. 82 Philip J. Leaf, Prevention of Youth Violence, 21

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mother is a single parent, has limited education, is in poor health, depends on welfare, and/or has three or more children), and [an] experience [with] domestic and/or community violence.”83 Unfortunately, the connection and correlation between student dropout and youth violence in Maryland, specifically in Baltimore City, are rather significant. B. The Disconnect

Reformers across America and in Maryland are failing to approach the problems of youth violence and pervasive student dropout in a holistic fashion. The organizations examining these issues function in “silos” and very little cross-pollination of ideas takes place. The organizations and officials working towards lowering dropout rates hail from education fields while other officials from criminal justice backgrounds focus on issues of juvenile crime. The organizations‟ failures at crossing the divide have contributed to the persistence of juvenile-related problems. Plenty of organizations, both public and private, exist in Baltimore City that dedicate resources and time towards preventing student dropout or juvenile crime. In Baltimore, nearly every city department has some variety of services directed at youth development. However, very little interaction between the organizations exists, and steering committees with the function of coordinating inter-departmental efforts fail to implement a proactive approach to intervention. A prime example of such citywide efforts in Baltimore is evidenced in Operation Safe Kids (OSK). OSK describes itself as “a youth violence prevention program with the Baltimore City Health Department that provides community-based case management and monitoring to juvenile offenders who are at high risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of violence.”84 The program has an impressive rate of reaching juveniles that are at serious risk of becoming

83 84

Sundius & Farneth, Missing School at 5. Elizabeth Poole, 2006 Update: Operation Safe Kids, Program Review for the Baltimore City Health Department (2006) (Elizabeth Poole is the Health Policy and Program Analyst for Operation Safe Kids in the Office of Youth Violence Prevention). 22

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offenders – arrest rates of children graduating from the program have decreased on average over three years (decrease by 33%), and the rate that graduates have found employment several months after graduation has steadily increased.85 The program includes an incredibly innovative process called KidStat, where various stakeholders from different departments come together to work on each child in the program‟s specific, personal issues.86 However, in terms of preventing student dropout, the program may be too little, too late. By the time children reach OSK, over 70% of them have already dropped out of school with no intent to return.87 While some children do enroll in an educational setting while associated with OSK, a program analyst reported that the most troubling aspect of the service is the inability to work with the school system and maintain an environment where students fully invest in their own educational futures.88 The program offers an educational liaison for the KidStat process, but no individual at the Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS) self-identified as having worked consistently with OSK.89 The school system, BCPSS, offers an alternative options program where students most atrisk of dropping out may expedite their credit recovery process. However, these alternative schools are some of the lowest performing schools in the district according to state and city data

85 86

Id. Id. 87 Id. 88 Phone Interview with Elizabeth Poole, Health Policy and Program Analyst, Operation Safe Kids (March 31, 2008). 89 Personal Interview with Deb Silcox, Director of External Partnerships, Baltimore City Public School System (April 1, 2008). 23

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reporting.90 Often, officials in the city interpret these Alternative Options programs as the last step before potential student dropout becomes a reality.91 Disconnect between population needs and service provision is not a mystery. Researchers have consistently pointed out the importance of addressing both of these social problems cohesively. Dr. Leaf suggests that districts employ a multi-pronged approach -

including a connection between programs focusing on communities, schools, policing strategies, and public health concerns.92 The Mayor‟s Office in Baltimore City has started a new initiative entitled Baltimore Rising.93 This program serves as an umbrella group to provide services throughout Baltimore to children and families in need. The program, though relatively new, has sought to bring together school-based services, faith-based programs, mentoring, community programs, and specialized programs.94 While in theory the effort seems worthwhile, the programs within the organization generally do not work with the school system and the criminal justice system in partnership. Baltimore Rising does not have a set protocol for offering services, and the data-measurement and program evaluation structures are still under construction.95 The Open Society Institute – Baltimore has made an increased effort this year to focus on juvenile crime issues and the relationship such issues have to truancy in Baltimore City. After setting out the problem and connection between truancy and youth violence, policy analysts with OSI-Baltimore have recommend that truancy reduction should be a priority for all policymakers
90

The school system offers several secondary Alternative Options programs in stand-alone buildings and in inclusionary settings within other mainstream schools. More information about the Alternative Options program is available on the web (http://www.baltimorecityschools.org/Departments/Student_Support/PDF/FAQ.pdf). The schools‟ statewide assessment measurements may be compared at: http://www.mdreportcard.org. 91 Id. 92 Leaf, Preventing at 17-18. 93 Baltimore Rising, Inc., Baltimore City Mayor‟s Office of Community and Human Development (2007), available at http://www.baltimorecity.gov/government/baltimorerising/. 94 Id. 95 Phone Interview with Representative from Baltimore Rising (March 25, 2008). 24

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in the state of Maryland.

Specifically, the organization recommended the inclusion of a

nationwide truancy definition that would allow for appropriate data-analysis around strategic resource allocations to truants and their families.96 Furthermore, no clearinghouse in Baltimore exists for a person seeking intervention to find a program most suited for his or her needs. More importantly, no clearinghouse in

Baltimore exists to suggest proactive and targeted intervention to individuals who document a clear need. Should a student be at high risk of dropping out, hidden obstacles prevent needed interventions from reaching the child – consider OSK where program enrollment generally only occurs after a sixth arrest or severely violent offenses. In Baltimore City and across Maryland, state and city officials should do more to centralize the effort to reduce youth violence and student dropout collaboratively. Finally, other national groups such as the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have recommended that policymakers start taking more seriously the nationwide problems caused by student dropout. With these powerful forces directing decision makers‟ attention, numerous initiatives have developed. However, as this paper indicates, too many of these programs in Maryland, and especially Baltimore City, take too narrow an approach and fail to maximize the effects they could have on populations served.

96

Sundius & Farneth, Missing School at 9. 25

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INTERVENTIONS: IN MARYLAND AND ACROSS THE COUNTRY A. Legislative Focus & Background

In the Maryland General Assembly Session 2006, legislators passed and Governor Ehrlich signed H.B. 36, an act to establish the “Task Force to Study Raising the Compulsory Public School Attendance Age to 18.” Originally proposed to amend Md. Code Ann., Educ. § 7301, to increase the age of compulsory attendance from 16 to 18, both sides of the General Assembly submitted numerous amendments. At the time of enrollment and passage, the bill no longer amended the Maryland Code, and, instead, the General Assembly passed the bill to create the MSDE Compulsory Age Increase Task Force. Overall, the MSDE Task Force was charged with evaluating how an increase in the mandatory age of attendance would affect public education in Maryland.97 Over a period of a year, the MSDE Task Force, composed of four subcommittees, brought together over fifty stakeholders from across Maryland and from other regions of the country. Each individual subcommittee made preliminary recommendations, and the final report included six general recommendations for Maryland policymakers: (1) reform the process for providing needed interventions to at-risk students; (2) decrease barriers to students seeking to obtain GED or alternative education certificates; (3) create multiple pathways for students to achieve a diploma after dropping out of high school (including work-based learning curricula); (4) request that the Maryland State Board of Education (MSBE) adopt a definition of alternative education; (5) provide adequate funding for a raise in the compulsory age of attendance; and (6)

97

Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), Attending to Learn: The Implications of Raising the Compulsory Age for School Attendance, Final Report of the Task Force to Study Raising the Compulsory Public School Attendance Age to 18, Submitted to the Maryland General Assembly and Governor, 1 (2007) [hereinafter MSDE Task Force]. 26

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appoint a group to study Maryland‟s truancy courts in an effort to consider expanding the courts statewide.98 After presenting the MSDE Task Force‟s Report during the Maryland General Assembly‟s Special Session 2007, legislators were left with the report‟s recommendations for the 2008 Session. B. More Recent Legislative Action

On January 31, 2008, Senator Pugh introduced SB 436, Education – Age of Compulsory Attendance – Exemptions.99 First reading for the bill occurred in the Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. While Sen. Pugh was not a member of the committee, she testified in favor of the bill‟s passage during the bill hearing, and she invited the bill‟s many proponents to testify on March 5, 2008.100 During the hearing, the following parties either had a representative present to testify or submitted written testimony in favor of the bill‟s passage: Delegate Aisha N. Braveboy (D – 25th, Prince George‟s County), Maryland State Teachers Association, Baltimore City Board of Education (support with amendment to lower minimum age to 17), NAACP Baltimore City Chapter, Md. General Assembly‟s Legislative Black Caucus, and the Maryland Association of Parent/Teacher Associations. Only two parties submitted testimony in opposition to the bill: Maryland State Department of Education (through the Maryland State Board of Education‟s written testimony in opposition) and a lobbyist from the Maryland Home Education Association. During the committee hearing, the panel in favor of the bill pointed to the multifold effect the reform would have on school districts and jurisdictions throughout Maryland. Presenters
98 99

Id. at 3-18. Senate Bill 436, Maryland General Assembly 2008 Regular Session Bill Information, History by Legislative and Calendar Date (2008), http://mlis.state.md.us/2008rs/billfile/sb0436.htm. 100 Interview with Mrs. Charline Rolley, Legislative Affairs Liaison, Baltimore City School Board (February 22, 2008). 27

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made very clear their recognition that Baltimore City and Prince George‟s County were focal points of needed reform. Additionally, a number of the presenters in support stressed the impact the effort would have on sending a message to all Marylanders that failing to graduate high school was not acceptable in the state.101 In opposition, the sole presenter used figures from other jurisdictions to attempt to argue that raising the compulsory age in other states had no effect on dropout rates. However, the presenter failed to use verifiable information, and the facts he relied upon did not accurately represent state statistics (Sen. Pugh pointed this out to the committee after the testimony).102 On March 19, 2008 the Senate Committee voted to give the bill a favorable report with amendments presented by Senator Ulysses S. Currie (D – 25th, Prince George‟s County), which lowed the age requirement from 18 to 17. One day later, lawmakers agreed to add a favorable amendment that conditioned the Act‟s enactment in 2009 on whether $45,000,000 was available in the Maryland budget‟s General Fund to implement the bill.103 As will be described in further detail below, some legislators expressed fear that the state‟s financial standing would not permit additional spending for school construction, increased employment costs, program spending, and community-outreach. Thus, the amendment was accepted, and on the same day the bill passed a full vote of the Senate (27-20) and went for first reading in the House Ways and Means Committee. There, the bill sat, and no further action occurred. The session ended without SB 436 reaching a House vote.104

101

Information Gathered While Attending Bill Hearing, Health Education and Environmental Affairs Committee (March 5, 2008). 102 Id. 103 Senate Bill 436, Maryland General Assembly Session 2008, Amendment to §7-303 (2008) (adding spending clause). 104 Senate Bill 436, Session 2008 Bill Information; Email Exchange with Ms. Charline Rolley Legislative Affairs Liaison, Baltimore City School Board (April 7, 2008). 28

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On the other side of the State House, Delegate Braveboy submitted a companion bill in the House of Delegates as a pre-filed bill on June 17th, 2007 entitled HB 21, Education – Compulsory Attendance – Age of Withdrawal. Though a hearing was scheduled for March 11, 2008, Del. Braveboy agreed to hold her bill until action came from the Senate regarding SB 436. Once momentum stopped on SB 436, Del. Braveboy did not consider moving forward with her House bill. Interestingly enough, however, Del. Braveboy sought a review by the Maryland Attorney General of a proposed amendment to her bill to only increase the age of attendance for students in Prince George‟s County Public Schools. In response, the Attorney General issued an opinion, “The General Assembly may raise the compulsory school attendance age to 18 and limit the application to Prince George‟s County so long as there is a reasonable basis for doing so.”105 While this amendment was not enacted, the opinion may prove useful in a recommended course of action for the next General Assembly Session. C. Arguments for Increasing the Compulsory Age

The arguments in Maryland for increasing the compulsory age of school attendance are diverse and interrelated. Senator Pugh was not alone in believing that increasing the age would dramatically affect the way that public schools would approach education of students most atrisk of dropping out. The Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS), citing the effects of increasing the mandatory attendance age in other states, wrote in its letter of support of SB 436, “[The bill would] encourage more students to attend institutions of higher education and to decrease dropout rates, juvenile crime and teen pregnancy.”106

105

Douglas F. Gansler, Opinion for Delegate Braveboy, 92 Op. Atty Gen. Md. 117, 2007 Md. AG LEXIS 10 (Md. AG 2007). 106 Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners, Letter In Support of Senate Bill 436 Education – Age of Compulsory Attendance – Exemptions (March 5, 2008). 29

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As will be discussed in detail further in the paper, Maryland would join a number of other states who have already moved their required attendance ages above 15. Many states have recently engaged in age-level reform merely because the laws keeping the age at 15 came into existence between 1870-1910 to accommodate the agricultural economy of the time.107 Other states have claimed that the reform acts as a way to “raise expectations among students, their parents, school authorities, and the general public” that graduating and college readiness are important to the future of the state.108 Additionally, some researchers have found that one out of four potential student dropouts remains in school because of compulsory schooling laws.109 Ultimately, though, most proponents of the reform see increasing the compulsory age as a mechanism for bringing much needed reforms into struggling school districts. Costs are

associated with increasing the mandatory schooling age because at least some number of students likely will remain in school when they wouldn‟t have otherwise. The costs of educating this expanded population may come through payments for teachers‟ salaries, building space additions, remedial programming expansions, special education programming enhancements, general accommodations, credit recovery program offerings, and other like expenditures.110 While these expenses may seem large at the outset, the MSDE Task Force found that the costs associated with the increasing of the compulsory attendance age actually might not exist. After the MSDE Task Force interviewed leaders from other states that had implemented an increase in compulsory age of attendance, the Task Force reported that the states experienced no

107 108

Bridgeland, Case for Reform at 2. Id. at 6. 109 Id. at 4. 110 MSDE Task Force at 88-91. 30

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foreseeable fiscal impact at the state or local boards of education, since all local school systems [had] alternative programs to address the needs of students between 16 and 18 years old.”111 Very few proponents of raising the compulsory age believe that the act of increasing the age alone will reduce dropout rates substantially. While some students may choose to stay in school, certainly others would leave regardless of a change in the law. Taking legislative action to reform the law, though, brings the emphasis needed to motivate a wave of comprehensive reform that includes necessary, collateral supports. D. Arguments against Raising the Compulsory Age

Those in opposition to increasing the compulsory age point to many factors for their dissent. Most often, dissenters note that the process is unnecessarily expensive. The individuals in this camp often proclaim that students who would otherwise have dropped out, but come back because of a change in the law, tend disrupt the learning environment for other students. In the Fiscal and Policy Note to SB 436, the legislative analysts projected a net cost statewide of $85.2 million in FY 2011, $86.8 million in FY 2012, and $89.1 million in FY 2013.112 The Note attributes the costs to increases in student-enrollment expenditure, costs associated with at-risk student provisions (free and reduced price meals, students with disabilities, and students with limited English proficiency), and construction costs.113 These costs are significant, and

detractors note that spending could be better allocated elsewhere.114 Other detractors believe that increasing the compulsory age is a distraction from placing supports and services where they are most needed. In its opposition, the Maryland State Board of Education noted, “Members of the MSBE are not convinced that raising the age of
111 112

Id. at 31. Mark W. Collins, Fiscal and Policy Note: Senate Bill 436, Department of Legislative Services, Maryland General Assembly 2008 Session, 1 (2008). 113 Id. at 6. 114 As pointed out above, whether these costs are actual or theoretical is not clear. 31

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compulsory attendance without additional supports for students who would have otherwise dropped out of school will be successful in lowering the dropout rate, and indeed may prove problematic.”115 Others claim that increasing the compulsory age will “force likely dropouts to stay in school [leading] to greater disruptions and an overall negative influence on the remaining students.” 116 In Maryland, jurisdictional officials outside Baltimore City and Prince George‟s County have been cautiously unwelcome to the idea of spending significant resources on returning dropout students to the classroom. However, Laura Steinberg, Staff Assistant with the

Montgomery County Board of Education, reported that of the 1,100 students who dropped out of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), only 100 would have been affected by an increase in the compulsory age from 16 to 17.
117

Thus, spending that accompanies a change in

Maryland‟s law would be minimal for these high-performing school districts. Overall, the most worthwhile argument against raising the minimum age likely stems from the belief that the compulsory attendance laws go about addressing the dropout problem the wrong way. Under Md. Code Ann., Educ. § 7-301, and the proposed changes under SB 436, the primary method of enforcement relies on criminal prosecution of parties that assist in a child‟s truancy. For a parent or guardian who permits his or her child to become truant, the guardian can be charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense accompanied by a $500 fine, 30 days imprisonment, or both.118 The penalty for “any person who induces or attempts to induce a child to absent himself unlawfully from school” or someone that hires a student during a time when he

115

Letter from Maryland State Board of Education President, Mr. Dunbar Brooks, to Senator Joan Carter Conway, Chairman of the Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, in opposition to SB 436 (March 5, 2008). 116 Bridgeland, Case for Reform at 7. 117 E-mail from Laura Steinberg, Staff Assistant, Montgomery County Public School System (April 1, 2008, 4:42 EST) (on file with author). 118 Md. Code Ann., Educ. § 7-301(e)(1). 32

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or she should be in school may face a fine of up to $50 per day of unlawful absence for the first offense and up to $100 per day of unlawful absence for the second offense or imprisonment not to exceed 30 days, or both.”119 There does exist an escape hatch under the statute, Md. Code Ann., Educ. § 7-301(e)(3), which permits a judge to suspend the fine or prison sentence on the condition that some other mechanism is put in place to promote the child‟s attendance. Further, not every child and/or guardian and/or employer is subject to the provision; a number of exceptions exist.120 However, in Maryland, the primary method of truancy enforcement under the Maryland statute comes from criminal prosecution.121 This method of enforcement may not be the most effective way to decrease dropout rates or increase school attendance. Speaking with the Chief Prosecutor of truancy cases in the Baltimore City State‟s Attorney‟s Office, the author learned some unfortunate facts about the application of this law in Baltimore City. Mr. Steven Murray described his role in the process of reducing truancy by saying, “I don‟t even know where to start. All I know is that I‟m the wrong person to be doing this. We only see the criminal side, but we do the best we can.”122 While the process seems inherently ineffective, the office did recently change policies and procedures to better enforce truancy laws in a meaningful and efficient way. In the past, the burden was on each individual school to contact someone in the State‟s Attorney‟s Office to request that the state prosecute a guardian for not sending a child to school. This year, the State‟s Attorney‟s Office has combined resources so that all truancy prosecutors work in one building and all potential cases come from one place – the attendance officer at the Baltimore

119 120

Md. Code Ann., § 7-301(e)(2). Md. Code Ann., Educ. § 7-301(d). 121 Id. 122 Id. 33

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City Public School System, Tina Spears, who sends only the most pressing cases.123

By

streamlining the process, Mr. Murray hoped the prosecution process would be more beneficial to reducing overall truancy rates.124 Ultimately, the nature of the prosecution process inhibits full-scale enforcement on all truancy offenders across the state or even within Baltimore City. A successful prosecution could take up to 6 months, and often the office has reserved the greatest resource-expenditure on parents and guardians of the youngest students (K-5th Grade). 125 As for the 2007-2008 school year through April 2008, the State‟s Attorney‟s Office had investigated and prosecuted less than 100 truancy cases in a district where thousands of students are habitually truant on a daily basis.126 The office has never in the past 5 years used the statute to prosecute an employer of truant students.127 In a district where nearly 3,500 students drop out each year, 100 truancy prosecutions will not have an aggregate effect. While there may be some deterrent effect within the community, using prosecution to encourage school attendance seems to be a rather inefficient way at addressing the state‟s dropout crisis. E. Other Efforts

Maryland would not be the first state in the nation to address youth violence and student dropout problems by using the compulsory attendance age as a lever of change. Nor would an analysis be legitimate were it to focus solely on raising the school attendance age to evaluate efforts at reducing youth violence through a lens of educational intervention. A number of states have already passed laws to increase the compulsory age of school attendance. Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have compulsory attendance laws set
123 124

Id. Id. 125 Id. 126 Id. 127 Id. 34

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for students above the age of 16.128 Twenty-four states have laws, like Maryland, that set the minimum dropout age at 16. The way each state chooses to enforce the law varies greatly, and an investigation of the variances shows an interesting trend among states. The MSDE Task Force in Maryland sought to qualitatively review the results in other states and evaluate the statutory language of other state codes covering compulsory attendance ages. By sending out surveys to various other state departments of education, the MSDE Task Force found that, generally, any state where an age increase was proposed but defeated in the legislature, the primary reason cited for the bill‟s failure centered on financial concerns.129 In Kentucky, the $30 million dollar price tag associated with the education bill effectively defeated it before reaching committee.130 The same story occurred in Michigan where eighteen bills have been introduced to increase the minimum dropout age, but financial worries on the part of legislators have prevented even a hearing from occurring on any of the eighteen bills.131 In New York, the state offered to pay $27 to $41 million towards any effort to increase the compulsory age of attendance, but after the fiscal note estimated that the bill would cost from $59 to $89 million per year, the bill failed.132 Additionally, the way states enforce the compulsory age law varies widely. The vast majority of states use criminal punishments and fines: Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, D.C., Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.133

128 129

MSDE Task Force at 50. Id. at 32-34. 130 Id. at 33. 131 Id. 132 Id. at 34. 133 Id. at 52-55. 35

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Other states employ a truancy court method to target students who are absent between 10 to 30 times in a year.134 In North Carolina, Michigan, and Delaware, the results of the truancy court programs have been astoundingly positive. The MSDE Task Force notes, “In Ingham County, Michigan, approximately 63 percent of the 600 students referred to the truancy court in the first two years have improved their attendance.”135 These results certainly seem worthy of replication in Maryland; however, an independent analysis of institutions would be necessary, and this paper does not address this important issue. Hopefully, Maryland‟s use and/or

expansion of the truancy court structure may be another institutional support the state investigates to address social problems that stem from student dropout. F. Best Practices

Geographically: In Maryland, of the largest school districts – those with 12,000 or more secondary students (Montgomery, Howard, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Baltimore City, and Prince Georges) - Montgomery County seems to have the most effective truancy and dropout prevention model.136 Officials there leave basic truancy enforcement to the particular efforts of each individual school. As explained by Ms. Laura Steinberg, schools invest in the children within their buildings. However, should the school not be successful at maintaining high attendance, school administrators request that the central office assign a pupil personnel worker to the particular child‟s case. The pupil personnel worker serves a similar function as would a social worker and offers services and mediation with the pupil‟s parents or guardians. Finally, if all else fails, the school administrator can refer the child to the Interagency Truancy Review Board (ITRB).

134 135

Id. at 29. Id. at 30. 136 Id. at 84. 36

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Hearings occur in the Juvenile Assessment Center between parents, the ITRB, the Department of Child and Adolescent Mental Health, the Child Welfare Department, and the Department of Juvenile Services.137 Representatives from each organization discuss the

individual facts of the student‟s case and provide recommended steps for reducing truancy and an implementation plan. With such a program in place, Montgomery County‟s graduation rate was 90.3% in SY 06-07, and for the same year the dropout rate was 2.7%.138 While Montgomery County‟s model may be effective for that jurisdiction, the socioeconomic disparity between MCPS and Baltimore City is significant. As of 2005,

Montgomery County was the 13th richest jurisdiction in the nation.139 Baltimore City with a median per capita income of $16,978, on the other hand, pales in comparison to the wealth of Montgomery County where median per capita income is $35,684.140 While income alone is not determinative, the scope of the dropout-problem allows Montgomery Country to spend more significant amounts of time and resources on a lesser number of individual cases.141 In

Baltimore City, the extents of the dropout problem and of the social problems related to poverty are significantly greater; programs that work in Montgomery County may not be possible in Baltimore City. Strategic Use of Information: Florida‟s Broward County School System (BCPS) is an urban district using award-winning techniques to inform decisions about student dropout and

137 138

2007 Montgomery County Public Schools Master Plan, Attendance Rates, I.D.v (2007). 2007 Montgomery County Public Schools Master Plan, I.D.v – I.D.vii (2007); the disparity accounts for those students who left school voluntarily but are not considered dropouts based on exceptions permitted under the law. 139 Washington Post Staff Writers, 4 Area Communities Among 10 Richest, Washington Metro Builders‟ Realty Council (2005), available at http://www.realtycouncil.com/richestcommunities.shtml. 140 United States Census 2000: Demographic Profiles, U.S. Census Bureau (2008), available at http://censtats.census.gov/cgi-bin/pct/pctProfile.pl. 141 Personal Interview with Laura Steinberg. 37

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strategic intervention.142 Named as a finalist for Comperworld‟s “Best Practices in Business Intelligence” Award, BCPS employs a database system of tracking student information that rivals database techniques used in private business.143 As the sixth-largest urban school district in the country, Broward County school officials likely have faced similar issues and setbacks as officials in Baltimore City.144 As such, programs in Broward County may have a more realistic chance of replication in Baltimore City than the programs offered in Montgomery County. Broward County employs use of the Data Warehouse – a “centralized repository, [which] began 10 years ago when BCPS secured an IBM Reinventing Education grant… that would streamline access to data from the District‟s Total Educational Resource Management System (TERMS).”145 This web-based reporting system allows district officials, parents, students, and school-based staff the opportunity to collect and evaluate personal, school-wide, and districtwide data to make strategic decisions about education. As the system has developed, speciallytrained district leaders have taken a proactive approach to data management, and they have begun to use the comprehensive data to improve issues related to accountability, student achievement, discipline, and school improvement.146 Most importantly, the District has used data to target particular students at young ages who are most at-risk of falling significantly behind. Once targeted, the District uses summer programs, individualized education opportunities, and Progress Monitoring Plans to invest
142

Bill Wrinn Topaz, Computerworld Announces Finalists for the 2007 “Best Practices in Business Intelligence” Awards Program, Market Wire (2007), available at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_pwwi/ is_200709/ai_n19509642. 143 Id. 144 Letter from the School Board of Broward County, Florida to Ms. Norma Castro, Associate Director of the Broad Foundation, December 6, 2007 (written in response to being qualified for the Broad Foundation‟s annual education award for urban school districts showing the greatest improvement) [hereinafter Broward County Letter], copy available from author. 145 Id. 146 Id.; Erica Lepping, The Broad Foundation Announces 2008 Finalists for $1 Million Broad Prize; Five Urban School Districts Honored for Significant Student Gains, The Broad Foundation (news release), April 2, 2008 , 2, copy available from author. 38

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resources early and prevent future student failure.147 With such efforts, the District has reduced the percentage of students within the targeted at-risk cohort by 17% for fourth graders and by 911% (depending on the indicator) for eighth graders.148 Effective Programming: A number of programs are in place throughout the country that are effective both at preventing students from dropping out of school or at encouraging students to return to school after having left. Clemson University‟s National Dropout Prevention Center studies these programs and has issued a guide of the fifteen most effective programs and policies for preventing student dropout. independent analysis.149 The first type of general programming focuses on “creating a safe learning environment.” School officials may offer this type of generalized program to an entire school community where all or most of students may be at-risk of dropping out of school.150 The concept is founded in maintaining an environment within the school building where the primary concern of administrators and staff is making students feel safe – both emotionally and physically.151 For more individualized programming, the Center recommends infusing a vocationalsetting approach to the daily curriculum. By tying the incentive of an employment opportunity with parent and family involvement, small class sizes, community investment, and counseling opportunities, vocational-based training has proven to engage students most at-risk of leaving school. Pittsburg schools employ a dropout-prevention program for 5,000 students annually of The Center‟s recommendations are based on data-driven,

147 148

Broward County Letter at 4. Id.; fourth and eighth grade are considered benchmark years where the greatest number of transitions occur. 149 Jay Smink, Effective Strategies for Increasing Graduation Rates, National Dropout Prevention Center – Clemson University, March 29, 2009 (webinar presentation), available at http://dle-mediasite-hehd.clemson.edu/Mediasite /Viewer/Viewers. 150 Id. 151 Id. 39

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which nearly 75% are considered “seriously „at-risk‟” of dropping out of school.152 Based on the model described above, the Pittsburg program graduates nearly 86% of its enrollees.153 One of the most effective and financially efficient programs available for dropout prevention is mentoring. Different programs have varying success levels, but overall, the

confidence and self-esteem building that occurs with mentoring programs causes these programs to be extremely effective. One successful program that employs the mentoring model is The Buddy System Project. By using one-on-one mentoring or group mentoring combined with financial incentives ($10 a month for positive behavior improvement), the Buddy System Project was able to reduce the violent behaviors of significantly at-risk children who had prior records of criminal arrest.154 Similarly, the Big Brother & Big Sister Program, estimated to cost $1,009 per participant, has found that one-on-one mentoring may reduce drug use, control violent behavior, decrease the likelihood of a child becoming truant, and improve school performance.155 As exemplified above, successful programs around the country exist and benefit from identifying and tracking at-risk students. Intervention programs exist that research has proven to have a positive effect on reducing the likelihood a student will drop out of school. Maryland should find a way to capture the most effective practices of other jurisdictions. Once recognized, Maryland should replicate these programs in the state‟s most troubled districts and apply the approaches in a realistic way to reduce student dropout and thereby reduce youth violence in the state.

152

John V. Hamby & Fred A. Monaco, Enhanced Vocational Education: Developing a District-Wide Dropout Prevention Program, A Series of Solutions and Strategies, National Dropout Prevention Center (1993). 153 Id. 154 MSDE Task Force; C.R. O‟Donnell & W.S. Fo, The Buddy System: Review and Follow-Up, 1 Child Behavior Therapy 161 (1979). 155 Peter W. Greenwood, Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice, in Crime Public Policies for Crime Control 100 (James Q. Wilson & Joan Petersilia eds., 2004). 40

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RECOMMENDED INTERVENTIONS As mentioned previously, the MSDE Task Force made six very general recommendations about how to address the dropout problem in Maryland by increasing the age of compulsory school attendance. While MSDE‟s interventions are broad and necessary in the long-run, the state needs to focus on more specific and systematic goals to truly take incremental steps at reducing youth violence and the dropout crisis. 1. Support Future Bills Seeking to Increase the Age of Compulsory Attendance

Receiving a high school diploma is critical to having a chance at success in life for the majority of individuals in this country. There should be very few reasons for any individual not qualified under a statutory exemption to need to leave an educational environment before receiving a high school diploma or an equivalent graduate certificate. The state currently sends a contradictory message to students. On one hand, students are encouraged to become college-ready. On the other hand, the state permits students to legally drop out of school at the age of 16. Maryland should make the following message very clear to students and stakeholders in the state: it should be illegal to assist or allow a child to drop out of school before that child has reached the age of majority. Even though increasing the age of compulsory attendance may not be the most effective method to reduce dropout rates and youth violence, passing a bill that solidifies a standard message about education is critical to future reforms. Additionally, the solidified graduation message may strengthen further discussion on the use of supplemented education reforms that may provide more effective, programmatic, and comprehensive interventions and supports to reduce student dropout. In supporting an increase of compulsory attendance ages, state officials will likely face a significant barrier: the threat of financial burdens imposed by such an effort. This budget-based

41

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argument, while compelling at the outset, disregards the long-run benefits of increasing graduation rates in districts with the greatest percentage of at-risk children. As the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners pointed out when writing a letter in support of SB 436, “Students who dropout are more likely than high school graduates to be incarcerated, to rely on public services, to live in poverty, etc. They pay fewer taxes and use more resources, which is ultimately a bigger drain on taxpayer money than it would cost to educate them. The average high school dropout costs society from $243,000 - $388,000 over his lifetime in public services, assistance, and programs, etc.”156 More specifically, the policy note to SB 436 indicated that “dropouts are disproportionally represented in public assistance programs and the juvenile and adult justice systems” and “[increasing the graduation rates in Maryland] could decrease state costs for social programs, public safety, and correctional services. Any potential long-term savings cannot be reliably estimated.”157 Because state officials did not suggest an estimated savings stemming from an improved graduation rate, the cost expenditure analysis unfairly exaggerates costs and frames the debate in an unfavorable and incorrect context. As noted previously, the 26 states which have already increased mandatory attendance ages have not experienced long-run costs associated with the reform.158 Furthermore, when determining annual costs that ranged from $80 to $82 million, the MSDE Task Force and the Fiscal Note assumed that all of the dropouts (over 10,000 in Baltimore) would return to school the very next year after the bill‟s passage. Were this to occur, the state would be required to cover increased construction costs for needed space, salaries for

156

Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners, Letter In Support of Senate Bill 436 Education – Age of Compulsory Attendance – Exemptions (March 5, 2008). 157 Collins, Fiscal and Policy Note SB 436 at 6. 158 MSDE Task Force at 31. 42

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extra teachers, etc. This assumption is faulty, and it leads to an erroneous conclusion. In reality, many students who have already dropped out are very unlikely to return. To say they are “lost” may be a bit extreme, but the state should not include the immediate return of all student dropouts when making financial calculations. Rather, the message would be sent to currently enrolled students and, more specifically, currently at-risk students. To these students the

message should be clear that they will be required to complete school until age 18 before they may legally leave an educational environment. 2. Create a Statewide Tracking ID Number for Students – Age 5-16

Before Maryland can begin to address the dropout crisis, the state must know the extent and scope of the problem. State officials have general ideas and numbers from the MSDE Task Force, but no single tracking system exists to identify students in the state‟s public schools.159 MSDE is working on, but has not completed, a system for identifying each student in an educational program throughout Maryland.160 According to the Data Quality Campaign, a

national research center evaluating how states use data in decision-making, Maryland only includes 3 of the 10 essential elements that a state should implement in its student-tracking databases.161 Maryland stands with Maine and Idaho as the states with the most incomplete student-databases.162 While the state maintains basic levels of information collection, no system exists to compile statewide data that jurisdictions could use to make strategic decisions about student achievement.

159

Interview with Tom DeWire, Director of SchoolStat, Baltimore City Public School System (March 25, 2008) [hereinafter DeWire Interview]. 160 2007 NCEA State P-12 Data Collection Survey Results, Data Quality Campaign (2008), available at http://www.dataqualitycampaign.org/survey_results/state.cfm?st=Maryland. 161 Id. 162 Id. 43

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One of the major reasons that a statewide database does not exist is that Maryland does not provide its students with an education tracking number. Currently, students who move among school districts in Maryland receive a new identification number in each district. 163 This jurisdictional inconsistency makes tracking student data more difficult than necessary. In an age where U.S. doctors email MRI pictures to India so that medical technicians can read and return the results and diagnoses in less than one hour, there is no reason for MSDE to be unable to provide a single electronic number for each student. The cost of creating such a system should not be extensive. The Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles manages to keep relatively accurate files on all drivers throughout the state. Replicating that model could employ economies of scale that could decrease long-run costs. Moreover, the opportunity cost of streamlining such efforts would be an effective way to minimize costs associated with operating such a statewide system. 3. Create an Interagency Database for Student Information

The Baltimore City Public School System already collects an incredible amount of data from students, teachers, and administrators.164 Most of the data gets processed through the SchoolStat department via the BCPSS Command Center. While the concept behind SchoolStat warrants significant support, the short-term goal of the department should be direct and purposeful: collaborate with among “Stat” programs in the city to create a database that stores pertinent, public, and department-specific information.165

163 164

MSDE Task Force at 11 (recommending that Maryland adopt a data system to track at-risk students). DeWire Interview. 165 The Baltimore City CitiStat program is “a performance-based management group within the Mayor‟s Office tasked with improving service delivery in Baltimore City.” Agencies, including the Department of Public Works, Fire, Health, Housing, Human Resources, Police, Recreation & Parks, and Transportation, engage a data-collection analysis to improve service provision. The schools are not a part of this process. By instituting a data-mining program within the school system that could access these other departments, schools could create a powerful student-tracking system. More information about CitiStat is available at http://www.baltimorecity.gov/government /citistat/process.php. 44

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With a database of information from all the relevant municipal departments, central officials can move towards purposeful service allocation. The comprehensive database should include information from any department that maintains data potentially related to studentperformance – including records of students‟ social, economic, and academic backgrounds. In creating such a database, city officials should use the recommendations outlined in Achieve, Inc.‟s leading report, “Identifying Potential Dropouts: Key Lessons for Building an Early Warning Data System.”166 This report suggests several implementation methods and offers lessons-learned from other districts that have created comprehensive, longitudinal databases.167 Ultimately, the database should permit officials to observe the comprehensive student information to make predictions about students‟ future academic successes and failures. Researchers have published studies that offer signals in student-data that are the most meaningful indicators of future dropout.168 These researchers have found that the indicators of future

dropout tend to revolve around academic signals (grades and course failures), attendance records, extracurricular difficulties (arrests, problems at home, etc.), behavioral issues, and school engagement.169 Further, researchers have narrowed and identified the most critical years for students in terms of dropout likelihood – the sixth, eighth, and ninth grades.170 At these important academic stages, students are most likely to exhibit meaningful indicators of future dropout. As at-risk students progress through later grades without intervention and the number of risk factors for
166

Craig D. Jerald, Identifying Potential Dropouts: Key Lessons for Building an Early Warning Data System, Achieve, Inc., June 2006 (white paper prepared for “Staying the Course: High Standards and Improved Graduation Rates, a joint project of Achieve and Jobs for the Future, funding by Carnegie Corp. of New York). 167 Id. 168 Louise Kennelly & Maggie Monrad, Approaches to Dropout Prevention: Heeding Early Warning Signs With Appropriate Interventions, National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (October 2007) (report prepared for National High School Center), more information available at http://www.betterhighschools.org. 169 Id.; Mary Reimer & Jay Smink, Information About the School Dropout Issue: Selected Facts & Statistics, National Dropout Prevention Center/Network (2005). 170 Kennelly & Monrad, Approaches to Dropout Prevention at 7. 45

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these students increases, the likelihood that these students will dropout increases drastically. A useful comprehensive database would focus on these important indicators and grade levels to place students in tiered categories – those students exhibiting the most risk factors at the earliest ages would be in the most severely at-risk category while those students only nearing one risk factor at a later age would be in the lowest at-risk category. Figure 1 below represents a visual description offered by OSI-Baltimore of functional tier-based program. As seen in the figure, the more likely a child falls below and/or right of the median lines, the more likely that child would need a more intense intervention (as compared to a child with indicators placing him/her above and to left of the median ranges).
Figure 1171

Currently, Maryland and Baltimore City do not utilize such a model.

Different

departments in the City maintain different datasets separately without coordination, and school
171

OSI-Baltimore, Chronic Absence in the Early Grades: An Applied Research Project, February 22, 2008 (presentation sponsored by the Open Society Institute – Baltimore and supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation), copy available from author upon request. 46

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officials have little opportunity to use the indicators in a meaningful way to make strategic intervention decisions.172 Two particular concerns prevent school officials from pursuing a comprehensive database in Baltimore City (beyond the lack of a statewide student-tracking ID). First, privacy concerns hamper school officials‟ attempts to share information. During interviews, Dr. Andres Alonso, CEO of the BCPSS, and Tom DeWire, Director of SchoolStat at the BCPSS, both reflected on the significant problems Baltimore City has faced with privacy barriers.173 Specifically, DeWire highlighted issues his department had with sharing inoculation and immunization information between the BCPSS SchoolStat team and the Baltimore City Health Department‟s data-collection division.174 Additionally, Maryland statutes potentially

block public access and distribution of juvenile data.175 Though these privacy concerns are legitimate, Maryland provides statutory authorization for information-sharing amongst agencies dedicated to public health and service provision to children, youth, and families.176 The statutory allowance gives Maryland public agencies the rights to access department-specific data by written request to another agency so long as the request does not violate exceptions noted in § 1-211.177 Furthermore, other states have found ways around privacy-related problems when creating comprehensive student databases. Broward County‟s school officials created the award winning Data Warehouse in a way that secured student data by only allowing specialized access

172 173

De Wire Interview. Id. 174 Id. 175 Md. Code Ann., Courts and Judicial Proceedings, § 3-8A-27 (2008) (protecting against public access to children‟s police records except for the Department of Juvenile Services and the Baltimore City Health Department which have limited access to the records); Md. Code Ann., Health – General, § 4-301, §4-307, §10-607 (2008) (preventing public access to juvenile health records with exceptions). 176 Md. Code Ann., Human Services, § 1-210 (2008), “Disclosure of Information and Records.” 177 Id. 47

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to certified and trained staff.178 Parents, students, staff, administration, and other officials all have access to general information, but only certain officials have access to student-specific data across the entire district through the TERMS component of the database.179 By certifying particular employees and protecting student-specific information through passwords and ID numbers, the BCPS ensures that the database does not run afoul of privacy concerns. Second, city and state officials may worry about the financial and labor-related costs of creating such a database. Compiling massive amounts of data takes time and money. However, programs exist that would ease these burdens. Companies specialize in these database

integration processes. The National Dropout Prevention Center in partnership with Microsoft Education and Olympic Behavior Labs, have created a web-based, predictive business intelligence system that collects, interprets, and maps student-data from disconnected databases.180 The system mines identified data from various sources, parses the data

strategically, and provides predictive dropout outcomes for particular students.181 Instead of having to create a database program without guidance, districts in Maryland, particularly Baltimore City, could seek the assistance of these specializing organizations. The costs of implementing these services and maintaining the infrastructure may be steep, but municipal officials can utilize resources from non-traditional sources to supplement the costs. Because dropout prevention relates to issues of crime, employment, and economic growth, officials may have access to grants and funds that typically have not have been directed for use by school districts. In fact, on May 14, 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor offered a
178 179

Broward County Letter at 1. Id. 180 Jay Smink, The Dropout Early Warning System, National Dropout Prevention Center (2008) (informational material for the DEWS system), copy available from author by request; Presentation on the Dropout Early Warning System (DEWS), National Dropout Prevention Center, Microsoft, Olympic Behavior Labs (May 2008) (overview PowerPoint presentation of the DEWS systems provided to author via email by Executive Director of the National Dropout Prevention Center), copy available from author by request. 181 Id. 48

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$49.5 million grant opportunity entitled, “Mentoring, Educational, and Employment Strategies to Improve Academic, Social, and Career Pathway Outcomes.”182 Specified school districts,

including Baltimore City, may apply because “persistently dangerous” schools operate within the jurisdiction.183 The Dept. of Labor created the grant to encourage violence prevention

programming through job-training opportunities, and the creation of a comprehensive database that targets students most in need of job-related training addresses the Department‟s goal.184 The creation of this comprehensive database would not be an easy task. However, school districts in Maryland have models of successful programs in other districts as guidance. Carefully considered confidentiality protocols should overcome privacy concerns. Available financial and labor supports in existence would ease the burden of creating such a system. Most importantly, the costs of not instituting data-driven policies to reduce dropout rates are unacceptable. Thus, Maryland, specifically Baltimore City, should develop a comprehensive, interagency, student-information database. 4. The BCPSS Should Issue a General Mission Statement to Shift District Priorities and Drive Future Budget Decisions towards Provision of Targeted, Strategic, and Proactive Intervention Services Right now, Baltimore City and its school system have too many programs, too few operators, too many conflicting priorities, and too few coordinating organizations. In order to combat these problems, the school system in coordination with the Mayor‟s Office should brand

182

United States Department of Labor, May 14, 2008, available at http://www.grants.gov/search/search.do ?&mode=VIEW&flag2006=true&oppId=17689. *On a personal note, I found this grant while seeking resources for Baltimore City‟s restructuring of the alternative options program. After soliciting assistance of U.S. Senator Ben Cardin‟s office by way of “cold call,” the grants specialist for the Senator found this opportunity by complete chance one day after I spoke with her. After having notice, I presented this grant to Jonathan Brice, Director of Student Support of the BCPSS, to gather funds for salary incentives for teachers in alternative school settings (typically more challenging than the general school population). 183 Id. at “Additional Information on Eligibility.” 184 Id. at “Description.” 49

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a new mission statement for Baltimore. The message should serve as the basis from which officials make budgetary and policy decisions. The public message should be the following: Baltimore City provides public services and interventions in a strategic, targeted, and proactive way. By consistently making data-driven budget decisions according to this message, the City should function more predictably, efficiency, and effectively. Furthermore, officials will direct funds towards programs that are most likely to yield long-run returns, such as efforts at truancy and dropout reduction. Assuming the effort is done in conjunction with the creation of the comprehensive database, municipal officials should be able to offer tailored programs to students who are most likely to benefit from the services offered. Instead of simply offering an extensive,

uncoordinated menu of services or interventions, school officials can promote specific interventions to specific students based on data-driven indicators. Additionally, by utilizing comprehensive databases combined with targeted service provision, municipal officials would be able to hold service providers accountable based on data-driven outcomes; reevaluate programmatic effectiveness for specific types of risk factors or dropout indicators; and restructure program offerings based on prior outcomes.185 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) serve as an example of a jurisdiction that attempts to use a proactive approach to intervention provision in schools. Officials there created an “on-track indicator” system to measure students‟ likelihood of earning a high school diploma.186 By using the 9th grade statistics as benchmark data, CPS rates the proportion of a school population that is off-track, and CPS offers supports and systems according to the indicated proportion of off-track

185 186

Jerald, Identifying Potential Dropouts at 37-38. Id. at 11. 50

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students.187 Furthermore, the CPS continuously updates its findings, and recently officials found that one particular 8th grade standardized test provided a better measure of future dropout than previously assumed.188 By altering the indicator formula, CPS officials improved its

identification process and will provide more effective services to schools in Chicago.189 Ultimately, Maryland‟s urban jurisdictions should move away from passive attempts at rehabilitating students once they‟ve already shown significant signs of habitual truancy. Instead of waiting for clear problems to develop, the City and school system should invest in programs that strategically identify students early on who are most at-risk of dropping out of school and contributing to youth violence in the city. Once identified, officials should be able to offer proven and effective programs that are tailored to students‟ particular needs. In combination with an increase in age of compulsory school attendance, targeted, strategic, and proactive intervention provision will serve to effectively curb dropout rates and thereby reduce youth violence in the City.

187 188

Id. Id. 189 Unfortunately, no researchers have performed a comprehensive study to test the effects of the CPS system on youth violence rates in Chicago. Because the system is relatively new, reliable results may not be available. When possible, the CPS should evaluate (1) whether the “on-track indicator” system reduced dropout rates over a period of time and (2) whether the lowered dropout rates for that time period correlated with a reduction in the number of juvenile arrests for violent crime. 51

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CONCLUSION Maryland faces two specific yet complicated social problems: high student dropout rates concentrated in particular jurisdictions and unacceptable levels of youth violence, especially in the state‟s urban centers. Because of the complexity of these social ills, policymakers must address these problems with innovative and strategic interventions. To most effectively address these problems, Maryland policymakers should recognize the connection between the two social issues and sponsor reform efforts that utilize a collaborative understanding to approach reforms. Senator Pugh indicated an understanding of the connection between these two Maryland problems by sponsoring a bill, S.B. 436, which would have increased the compulsory school attendance age in Maryland to 18. While this legislative effort alone would not have been sufficient, Sen. Pugh‟s efforts were a step in the right direction in recognizing that tackling youth violence requires a effort to improve education systems, particularly in the state‟s most vulnerable districts - Baltimore City and Prince George‟s County. Because high dropout rates likely correlate with high levels of youth violence, reduction in dropout rates (be it through legislation increasing mandatory school attendance ages or independent municipal action) likely will lower incidences of youth violence. As this paper indicates, Maryland can most benefit by taking a four-step approach to these issues. First, the state should endorse any effort to raise compulsory school attendance ages. Second, the Maryland State Department of Education should create and implement a statewide student-tracking identification numbering system. Third, struggling school districts in Maryland should create and implement a comprehensive student-information database system that would allow school officials to categorize at-risk students into varying levels of need. Finally, state and city officials should implement a mission statement based on providing

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interventions and services in a strategic, targeted, and proactive fashion. By using data-driven methods to effectively provide supports to at-risk students at younger ages, Maryland can more efficiently address the dropout rate epidemic in the state‟s urban centers and thereby significantly reduce youth violence.

53