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Thousands of Kids Drop Out of High School Daily - How Are We Going to Solve the Problem?

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On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, Sesame Workshop with Google and Common Sense Media are sponsoring Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age, a conference of 200 thought leaders who will come together to discuss solutions to the literacy and dropout problems facing the nation. This blog focuses on the dropout crisis; the one yesterday focused on the literacy problems.

The dropout crisis is bigger than you might have guessed. While in some areas it has improved somewhat in the last year, in the country as a whole the problem is growing. Almost fifty percent of students in the fifty largest American cities drop out of high school. In some cities, there is over a seventy percent drop out rate.

A major consequence of the dropout rate is an increase in crime and and the prison rate. We spend more to keep prisoners in jail than we do to educate our students. Typical per-prisoner expenses run from $20,000-$50,000 per year while typical per pupil expenditures run from $7,000 to $20,000, averaging $9,000. This discrepancy needs to be addressed now and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is trying to promote change through incentives in the $100 billion education stimulus package.

The stimulus package can promote creativity and programs that will improve student performance. That is what Breakthrough Learning Forum is focusing on -- ways that technology will help support the efforts of teachers to individualize instruction for students; ways that technology will improve professional development for teachers; ways that technology can make the curriculum more relevant to the world today; and ways that technology can facilitate the teaching of reading. Everyone can participate in this discussion on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. See below.

Kids need 21st century skills if they are going to be successful in the world marketplace. That means collaboration skills, technology skills, computer skills and Internet search skills, just to name a few. Collaboration is an important 21st century workplace skill and it ties in well with student's innate drive to be social. Collaboration improves student motivation since kids like to work with each other. How can schools take advantage of students' love of social networks, mobile devices and collaborative writing tools like blogs and Google Docs to promote learning?

The Forum will address these issues and more. The nation's education leaders, entrepreneurs and policy makers will be there. We need real solutions now, not in a few years.

Get the entire agenda by clicking here.

Anyone with a computer can participate thanks to the the Webcast that will be broadcast live by Google on Tuesday, October 27 and on Wednesday, October 28 . The Forum wants to hear from everyone, so they will be using a new online tool called Google Moderator which allows anyone to submit questions for the speakers either before the conference or while it is happening. Click here to get Moderator.

People can also follow the conference on Twitter and read along with the narrative on the forum blog:

The line up of speakers is impressive. Here are just a few:

* Anthony Bryk, President Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
* Karen Cator, Director, Education, Apple
* Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, Director K12 National Writing Project
* Kathy Hurley, Senior V.P, Pearson Foundation
* Ellen Moir, Director, New Teacher Center
* James H. Shelton III, Assist. Deputy Secretary, Department of Education
* Kavitark Shriram, Founder, Sherpalo
* Deborah J. Stipek, Dean, Stanford University School of Education

You can see their bios and all the others online here.

Dropping out is a no-win situation for students, for families, for employers, and especially for America as a country. We need everyone to work together to support teachers who in turn support the future -- our children. Join the dialogue and support efforts that will continue to address these problems after the conference is over.