Right To Succeed, an LA-based nonprofit organization, has launched its "Drop 50" campaign, which aims to cut school drop out rates throughout Los Angeles and the nation at large.
"A basic yardstick to measure the success of our educational system is looking at how many people graduate from high school," says Rob Nelson, a political activist who works on behalf of Right To Succeed. According to LAUSD's Drop Out Prevention and Recovery program, "one in three [or 33% of] high school students will fail to graduate with their class," though website California's Children states that in 2010 the drop out rate in LAUSD schools was nearly 60%, and Nelson notes the current drop out rate in all of California could be as high as 40%. With this in mind, Nelson begs the question, "If Fed Ex failed to deliver 40% of its packages--even if the 60% it did deliver were in good condition--would you consider it a successful business?"
Nelson and Right To Succeed don't think so. "If 50%, 40%, or even 30% of your kids aren't making it, how can you say you're being successful?" he asks. "By any standard, in any company, that percentage of failure would be disastrous. That applies to education as well."
The Drop 50 campaign's mission is therefore to "create a public consensus that real change has to happen soon," and then to "put pressure on elected officials to make reducing drop out rates a priority." The group utilizes events like musical town meetings, "to make the discussion fun while raising awareness" but also seeks help from politicians.
When Nelson went to a south Los Angeles Department of Water and Power staging plant to discuss Mayor Villaraigosa's last three years in office with 150 Angelenos, the Mayor became the first big city official to take the Drop 50 Pledge (see video below).
In addition to creating public discussions and getting elected officials involved, Right To Succeed also aims to actually begin implementing change in local schools. The organization does so by bringing community members to top performing schools with low drop out rates despite being in low-income and otherwise neglected neighborhoods. One such school is Los Angeles School of Global Studies, which uses one-on-one advisories, project-based learning and a new technology model pioneered and encouraged by groups like Right To Succeed. Another example is Synergy Kinetic Academy, a public charter middle school in South Los Angeles, which uses more traditional model of teaching that emphasizes individual attention and positive reinforcement in the learning process. "Both schools form strong communities, where teachers, administrators and parents are all involved and invested in the school." Nelson says these schools--and others like them--have replicatable models that communities throughout Los Angeles can adopt and invest in in order to lower their own drop out rates.
But, Nelson emphasizes that this isn't just about politicians taking up the cause. He notes that, "reforming the educational system in a big city is tough because you run into things that have nothing to do with the students themselves, like school boards, unions, and politicians." The change, he insists, must involve everyone.
Interested in getting involved? The Drop 50 campaign emphasizes the need to organize into a cohesive collective with strength in numbers. "The mission is to be unignorable group in every community so there's pressure from everywhere to change--not to beat up on politicians, but to get entire communities to acheive a common goal." Nelson invites citizens looking for change to join in Right To Succeed's mission and pledge to help, either by organizing town hall meetings, school visits, mentorship programs, or fundraisers to help spread awareness for the Drop 50 Campaign. To learn more visit Right To Succeed to see how you can participate.