High school dropout age will increase to 18 in three school years

State Representatives have voted to wait for three school years to raise the age to 18 that students must be to dropout of high school.

The dropout age for the upcoming school year will be 17, but legislators had been considering increasing that to 18. A bill passed in the House Monday will increase the dropout age to 18 beginning in the 2013-14 school year.

“Students who are under the age of 18 are in the age of minority so we as a state have the power to say whether or not they can drop out, and we are saying they cannot,” said Rep. Andy Fleischmann, D-West Hartford and co-chairman of the Education Committee.

But Rep. Marie Kirkley-Bey, D-Hartford, said the changing the dropout age is inconsequensial on deterring students from leaving school before they graduate.

“That has not stopped any child who wants to leave school from leaving. … He’s not going to listen to the principal or anybody else. So let’s be real, when he wants to drop out they are going to drop out.”

Just over 4,400 public high school students dropped out of school during the 2007-08 school year, the most recent year with available data, which is about 2.5 percent of all high school students.

Increasing the dropout age makes Connecticut the 21st state in the nation to require students remain in school or an adult education program until they are 18 years old. Many dropouts elect to enroll in an adult education program to earn their General Education Degree, and the bill passed by the House in a 95-49 vote allows students to leave high school before 18 as long as they prove they are enrolled in adult education.

Evidence is mixed as to whether the change increases graduation rates. Of the six states that raised their dropout age to 18 between 2002 and 2008, just two–Illinois and South Dakota–experienced increases in their graduation rates and Nevada even experienced a decline, according to a report from the Everyone Graduates Center at John Hopkins University.

The bill will also require principals to notify parents when students are in danger of failing a course.

It now heads to the Senate for final passage.