In 2016, Talbot County’s high school dropout rate jumped from 5.4% to 10.23% and climbed to 10.92% in 2017. In addition to being a sharp increase, this change put Talbot’s rate above the Maryland average of 8.21%. The Talbot County Opportunity Youth Results Based Leadership team, the TFN Disconnected Youth Strategic Goal Board workgroup, and Talbot County Public Schools all independently identified the urgent need for intervention.
In FY18 with competitive grant funds from the state, TFN and Talbot County Public Schools collaborated on a Reengagement Coordinator position to support recent dropouts as well as students at risk of dropping out. TFN funds the intervention component, reconnecting students who have already dropped out. Talbot County Public Schools funds the prevention portion of this program.
There has been early evidence that this program is turning the curve. Since 2018, the county dropout rate has decreased. In 2019, though, Black, Latinx and Limited English Proficient students were still over 2 times more likely to drop out than their White peers. The COVID-19 pandemic is cause for serious concern about increased risk for teen disengagement in school and in the workforce. The pandemic has the potential to disrupt the progress made on school completion rates and to worsen existing inequity, making this continuing partnership an important investment for the county.
STRATEGIES AND STRENGTHS
- Targeted outreach to students who have dropped out in the last 5-7 years
- Relationship-based strategies foster trust and goal setting
- Educational plan developed with each participating youth
- Coordinator works to address individual barriers such as communication, transportation and timing issues
- Strong relationship with Chesapeake College and the Workforce Training Center
- Availability of night school for students who have work and family obligations. Staff speak both English and Spanish