One School's Solution to the High Numbers of High School Dropouts

ByABC News
November 20, 2006, 6:03 PM

Nov. 21, 2006 — -- With nearly a third of American students in the nation's top 100 public school districts failing to complete high school -- and that number tops 50 percent in some cities -- educators see an epidemic. But what can be done about it?

Some creative educators at a Washington state high school have a solution that seems to work. The school builds a support network for students most at risk of dropping out, such as Daniel Browning.

Get the full story: Watch "World News with Charles Gibson" Tonight.

Browning, 18, arrives at Clover Park High in Lakewood, Wash., each morning to raise the flag. It may seem like a small thing, but for Daniel Browning it's extraordinary. Two years ago, he was about to drop out of school.

"I missed so many days of school," he says. "From the very beginning of the school, that's about 140 days."

Browning wanted to leave school to support parents who were sick and out of work.

"It felt like the whole world was on my shoulders, and I was losing beyond belief. There was no way I could get out of it."

That's when Browning's ROTC teacher Col. Wayne Byron, intervened. He convinced Browning he was taking on too much responsibility and forfeiting his future.

"I said you have to step back, and one of the things is, you have to take time to be a child," Byron said.

Today Browning has a B-minus average and plans to go to college.

Four years ago at Clover Park High, nearly two-thirds of the students had dropped out or failed to graduate.

"When you look at numbers like that, its heartbreaking," says Clover Park Principal John Seaton.

Most of the students at Clover Park are poor. Many come from single-parent homes in which they often face a host of other problems.

But thanks to a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the school system overhauled the way it does business.

It split a school of 1,300 students into four smaller "learning communities," each with its own faculty.

The teachers now stay with the students all four years and