Measures of Student Retention: Using a Virtual Line

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The Problem

Although high school dropout rates have decreased over the last decade, the chances of a dropout earning a living wage are decreasing even more rapidly.  Additionally, this social epidemic has shown to perpetuate poverty, not just for the individual, but for families and communities as a whole.  There is a heavy burden on the school systems to try and rectify these unfortunate statistics, and by and large, the educational sector is stepping up to the plate.

A proposed plan by the Los Angeles Unified School District stresses the importance of a direct engagement on the part of parents, teachers, and faculty, to steer drop-outs and potential drop-outs back into the classroom.  This plan, like many others, emphasizes the role of communication in this engagement, but the actual modes of communication are never addressed.

The problem is, while schools may find online resources easier to come by, that isn’t necessarily the case for the students.  High school dropout rates have been directly correlated to socioeconomic status, with students from low-income households facing the highest risk.

Gallup polls show that on a national level, most Americans have lost faith in this country’s education system.  This festering public image of systemic apathy in the education system leads to a decreased faith in the parts of the system that do work, and reinforces attitudes and behaviors detrimental to a child’s development.  It is important for schools to recognize this detachment in their own policies and weed it out as much as possible.

The Solution

The National Dropout Prevention Center has compiled a list of the 15 most effective strategies in curbing high school dropout rates.  They are as follows:

  • The Basic Core Strategies
    • Mentoring/Tutoring
    • Service Learning
    • Alternative Schooling
    • After School Opportunitie
  • Early Interventions
    • Early Childhood Education
    • Family Engagement
    • Early Literacy Development
  • Making the Most of Instruction
    • Professional Development
    • Active Learning
    • Educational Technology
    • Individualized Instruction
  • Making the Most of the Wider Community
    • Systemic Renewal
    • School-Community Collaboration
    • Career and Technical Education
    • Safe Schools

There is one pervasive theme in all of these theoretical solutions: strengthening the connection between schools and their students.

By maintaining contact with students and families, schools can build a stronger personal relationship with their communities.   Staff and social workers can’t expect to reach out to low-income families through technology that falls outside their means.  They need to remain accessible by phone.  A simple phone call dismantles the persistent perception that schools don’t care, and assures parents that their children are more than just a statistic.

But, that being said, schools cannot afford to lose sight of their business end.  Educational institutions aren’t helping their students when they run themselves into the ground with unmanageable finances.  Basing your school’s communication around phone lines will become increasingly tedious and costly as the focus of most business moves into the digital sphere.  While it seems like a noble endeavor to maintain extra phone lines for the sole purpose of reaching out to at-risk demographics, it will prove highly inefficient for continued development.  Schools need to find a way to look after their students without overloading themselves with auxiliary bills.

The Compromise

Fortunately, there is a middle ground.  There is a way for schools to establish phone communication systems, without impeding their transition to digital technology.  New providers in the telephony industry rely on Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to send and receive signals.  Rather than routing calls through a mess of land-lines, VoIP-based telephony can transmit voice messages across the webspace in digital format.  All calls are routed through virtual numbers, which can be accessed from any phone free of charge.  It’s just like calling toll free, only schools can manage the whole system through their internet providers.

Everywhere, schools are switching over to this new system.  It saves time and money without alienating the most important clients, the students.  The world’s economy is moving online, whether we want it to or not, and it has become the moral obligation of schools everywhere to serve as a bridge for their students into this new realm of enterprise.  For this reason, educational facilities must learn to operate within the digital sphere, while preserving analog accessibility.