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Q&A: Education Reporter Kavitha Cardoza On American Graduate Series

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More than 40 percent of public school students in the United States fail to graduate on time. That has ramifications for those individuals and for the larger community. WAMU 88.5 education reporter Kavitha Cardoza talks about what she learned through the months of reporting she did for the American Graduate series. Following are highlights of the conversation.

On why truancy continues to be a problem in D.C. and across the country: "It's really complicated... there are so many factors that determine whether a child will graduate or not... But basically, this isn't something that's unique to D.C.; this something that urban high schools across the country struggle with. Students have so many needs, and there's not enough support."

On the most promising strategies for intervening: "There are several different programs out there, but all of them seem to use certain components. One is the ABCs... researchers believe that very early on you can tell looking at attendance, behavior and coursework whether students are likely to graduate. Another aspect seems to be whether students feel what they're learning in school has implications, or whether they'll use what they learn in school for the rest of their lives. Another one is relationships. Do they have caring adults in school who care about them as people--not just they're academics, but their outside life as well."

On why it's not a futile effort to help students graduate, even if they face additional challenges after completing high school: "What's the alternative? We have to get more students graduating. At least by trying, you'll get a certain number more with a high school diploma... She [the principal] got emotional because she realized it isn't just academics. Students have to know how to resolve differences, they have to know how to behave, what's expected of them socially... some of her students don't have those skills, and that's a problem."

On what other states are doing to reduce their dropout rates: "They're trying a variety of things... one state invites teachers once a week over the summer to 'lunch and learn.' Companies organize this to tell teachers what they expect when they're hiring. There's one state that's trying to link driver's licenses with attendance in schools. Another state is trying to link grades... they're trying to link music and art, and all those extracurricular activities that students come to school for."

On how growing up in India influenced her perspective of America's education system: "I feel there are differences everyday. For example, [when] I was little, I had multiple tests, and the grades were posted publicly. And that's something that would never happen here. But when it comes to graduation rates, I feel that students in other countries seem to have a much stronger connection in doing well in school and what that means for success later in life."

Listen to the full conversation here.

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