Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lower the dropout rate, change the community

It would be easy for many people to learn about a teenager being charged with burglarizing homes and just shrug it off, shake their heads in dismay or chalk it up to “a kid being a kid.”

Fortunately, Joan Isaac isn’t like many people.

Joan, Hamilton County’s area director for United Way, is a take-charge advocate for people in need. When she sees a problem, she acts, while others just react.

After reading a news story about the teen’s arrest, she started questioning what social services could have been in place to short-circuit the crime. What does Hamilton County lack, she wondered, that could make a difference in someone else’s life.

“The status quo is unacceptable,” Joan wrote in her Current in Fishers column about stopping crime before it starts.

She cited some sobering statistics from the United Way of Central Indiana website:

● One in three children is born economically disadvantaged, with limited access to quality early learning.

● Kids who fall behind in reading and math are at higher risk of dropping out.

● Only two-thirds of area ninth-graders will graduate in four years.

“Changing the dropout rate can change our entire community and, as a result, reduce future human service needs,” she wrote.

UWCI’s Ready to Learn, Ready to Earn program has made great strides in a short time, according to its website. Assessments following more than 500,000 books being given to preschoolers through 6-year-olds, many of whom live in economically challenged neighborhoods, indicate the kids are entering school better prepared to learn than they were before the program.

United Way credits its public awareness campaign in neighborhoods with significant need for raising kindergarten attendance on the first day of school from 64 percent in 2008 to 93 percent in 2010.

Through enhanced math instruction in a group of schools, sixth-graders showed improvement in the state math assessment, with one school more than doubling its pass rate in that grade.

Much of this work is focused on two Indianapolis neighborhoods, but Joan’s column reminds us that “Crime and poverty don’t stop at county lines. . . . we must invest in early childhood initiatives in our whole region to remain a vibrant community, to attract and retain employers.”

Support education efforts, she urged in her conclusion, to give our youth “the best possible options in life.”


  1. Great post! Support and programs for Dropouts are an important tool for supporting communities. I work for an Educational Service Center in Kansas ( and we run a network of learning centers (dropout recovery centers). We're also working with small towns to help them leverage social media and other internet resources to market themselves -- one other way to reinvigorate a small town is to add a few new families to the community -- and social media can help get the word out about small town life. Check out our site for that effort at (there's also a facebook page). Glad you're doing the Blogathon! - john (

  2. Love your blog subject; I live and write from a small town also. Looking forward to reading your blogathon posts in May, LT