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Dropout Forum, Abraham Lincoln High School

Friday, Feb. 13, 2009

Today I had the opportunity to join Gov. Bill Ritter for two important events at Abraham Lincoln High School in Denver.

The first event was a presentation of $500,000 toward dropout prevention in Denver Public Schools from AT&T Foundation.

The gift from the AT&T Foundation included a multi-year grant totaling $400,000 to Denver Kids Inc. to fund high school retention efforts. Denver Kids Inc. provides long-term preventative counseling to DPS students who are identified as being at-risk and needing extra support.

The AT&T Foundation contributed $400,000 to Denver Kids Inc.

The Denver Scholarship Foundation will also receive $100,000 to support the AT&T Future Center at Lincoln High School. The Future Center is one of 10 such centers located in DPS and is sponsored by the Denver Scholarship Foundation.

With great conviction and determination Gov. Ritter spoke about the need to reduce the number of students who fail to finish high school. “We fail our children if we don’t tackle this issue,” he said. “When I took office, I put a stake in the ground and firmly committed to cutting the dropout rate in half in 10 years,” Gov. Ritter said. “The generous donation and commitment from the AT&T Foundation along with the work and ideas generated from today’s dropout summit are both key to helping achieve that goal.”

The donations represent terrific awareness that solving the dropout rate problem will require broad-based community involvement. Clearly, these donations are going to organizations with strong track records and proven results; students spoke powerfully about how The Future Center at Abraham Lincoln High School made a huge difference in ensuring their road to higher education.

After the presentation, Gov. Ritter joined me in a conference room where representatives from five school districts—Adams Five Star Schools, Aurora Public Schools, Denver Public Schools, Jefferson Public Schools and Pueblo City School District 60 – attended a day-long State Dropout Policy Forum. The five districts are working with Johns Hopkins University on a pilot project to attack the dropout rate issue systematically. The districts spent the day sharing initial research results and discussed plans for translating that research into action.

Representatives from five school districts spent the day at Denver’s Abraham Lincoln High School sharing results on their dropout initiatives.

This effort is a true collaboration – involving the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Colorado Youth for a Change, The Partnership for Families & Children along with other direct-service organizations, advocacy organizations, researchers and leaders in philanthropy.

As I told the group, it’s time to really get to work on this issue. Bearing down on literacy levels for preschoolers and all young students will return large dividends as students progress through elementary, middle and high school. Making sure that the alignment of grade levels and expectations from preschool through high school will also have a tremendous impact; the CAP4K conversation and work is key. The Colorado Department of Education must do its part in making adjustments so incentives are in the right place and poor-performing schools and programs are confronted with brutal facts and prompted to make changes.

At the check presentation, Gov. Ritter underscored the importance of community partnerships in attacking the dropout rate.

Gov. Ritter pointed out that 75 percent of the dropouts in the state are from 25 percent of the high schools. While I know that’s true, I am convinced that every school district can do better with this issue. And the department will do its part to make a difference.

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