Gatton Academy says changing dropout age won’t solve problems in education

Taylor Harrison

Students in Kentucky who want to drop out of high school might eventually have to wait until they’re 18.

Legislation passed in the state House on Feb. 14 to support moving the age to drop out of high school from 16-17 to 18 years old over a period of a few years, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

This legislation will now go to the state Senate. Students and faculty from the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science have varying opinions on this proposed change.

Tim Gott, director of the Gatton Academy, said he has worked with high school students for 28 years and doesn’t think there’s anything for a 16-year-old to do if they drop out of high school.

“There’s really no reason to let a student go until they’re 18,” he said. “But, with that said, as educators, we have a huge responsibility to provide something meaningful for those students, and I think many of our programs at the moment are not sufficient.”

He also said he questions what the intention of this legislation is. While this new law would make it illegal for those students to drop out, he said, “It doesn’t answer the problem: Why are kids dropping out?”

For one, he said some high school programs aren’t meeting students’ needs. While there are some great programs out there, he said some use a “one-size-fits-all” mentality that doesn’t work.

To some degree, Gott said the law could be difficult to enforce, and they would have to decide whether the penalty would be a fine or jail time.

Gott also said it’s important for students to have a high school diploma to get jobs.

“If they drop out, they don’t have any real options at that time,” Gott said. “That’s the difficulty, it’s a two-year, no man’s land of what are they going to do while they’re under 18? So it is best for them to stay in school, and yet it’s best for us as educators to provide something meaningful for them to do.”

Frenchburg Gatton Academy senior William Roach-Barrette said simply increasing the drop-out age won’t solve the problem.

“Until you begin to reform the way education is done as a whole, it doesn’t matter if a kid is 16 or 18,” he said. “If he doesn’t want to learn, he’s just going to hold back everybody else in the classroom.”

He also said he could see the law being increasingly difficult to enforce, and that it would be a waste of resources, keeping kids in school who don’t want to be there.

Contrary to Roach-Barrette, Elizabethtown Gatton Academy senior Nathan Serpico said he doesn’t see why this rule would be more difficult to enforce than the current one.

Serpico also said he feels this proposed law is unnecessary and that it won’t solve problems in education.

“Because in the end, student motivation is going to be a bigger factor in academic success.”