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It is estimated that one in four young people drop out of high school each year and this represents a significant impediment to their own future happiness, health and success and a challenge to the ongoing development of an innovative and productive American workforce.This recently released report from the Social Science Research Council shows high levels of disconnection amongst youth aged 16-24 from study OR work in 25 major metro areas.These reports by the Innovation Trail team are part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen; a multi-year public media initiative, supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), to help local communities identify and implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis.The American Graduate project brings together more than 60 public media stations around the country in an initiative to help students stay on the path to graduation and future success.A forum and community conversation about the dropout crisis in Rochester, N.Y. will be held at WXXI's Studios, 280 State Street, Rochester from 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept 24.To be part of the studio audience call (585) 258-0252.PBS Frontline will air a special "Dropout Nation", airing at 9:00 p.m. on WXXI-TV/HD.

Forum told that community engagement is critical to turning around dropout rates

This story is part of the Innovation Trail's partnership with FRONTLINE's Dropout Nation. You can read the other reports here.

At a panel held in Rochester last night as part of the America Graduate project, participants in the forum said that some students may not excel in academics, but that doesn't mean they can't graduate, it just means their other talents must become the focus.

The forum also suggested that targeting the interests of students may engage them more and make school a more attractive choice.

Rochester's schools are battling with a dropout rate of 22 per cent.

Panel member Dr. David Hursh from the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester says the standardized tests often used aren't always the right measure of the level of standards a student is at.

We live in an age where there is an increasing number of high stakes standardized tests being given to students and they're being used for all sorts of purposes. The concern that I have is that high stakes testing does not necessarily lead to higher standards which is one of the assumptions that's made.

Panel members stressed that in and outside the classroom, an extended support network for students at risk of dropping out can go a long way to getting them back on the right track. 

Community Development Director at Rochester's Freedom School, Jeremy Smith, says teachers need to know how to relate to each individual kid, despite gender, race or culture and that the community needs to help that happen. 

Civic responsibility, community engagement is very important and the schools and the communities have to connect. If the schools and the communities get on the same page about saving that child and believing that it is a village and that we're a part of that village. I think you will see a tremendous change in our education rates.

Support for Innovation Trail's American Graduate initiative comes from Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection.

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail