Local authorities criticized for not doing more to deal with school dropouts

Findings show that truant officers’ efforts to identify and locate school dropouts is insufficient.

Teenagers drinking and smoking Hookah 521 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Teenagers drinking and smoking Hookah 521
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Local authorities should do more to identify, locate, and deal with youth who drop out of educational frameworks, according to the State Comptroller report released Wednesday.

Between September 2012 and April 2013, the State Comptroller’s Office reviewed the handling of youth who had dropped out of the educational system or did not attend school on a regular basis in three cities: Petah Tikva, Ashdod, and Baka al-Gharbiya.

The report introduced data by the Central Bureau of Statistics which showed that during the 2009/10 school year there were 1.45 million students, of whom 24,540 (1.7 percent) dropped out of school. The data also showed that the dropout rate escalated from a low 0.5% in elementary schools to 2.6% in middle schools, then 3.3% among 10th graders, and 5.4% among 11th graders.
In the Education and Welfare and Social Services ministries truant officers and social workers help local authorities to identify and assist disconnected youth. The findings showed that, in all three authorities reviewed, the truant officers’ efforts to identify and locate school dropouts was insufficient.
They did not use all the means at their disposal – such as attendance records, house visits, or “natural environment” tours – to track down the disconnected youth.
The report found that some school principals did not report students who did not attend school regularly, as is required by law. Furthermore, the local authorities did not reprimand the principals and did not report these lapses to the Education Ministry, which greatly hindered its efforts to identify and locate disconnected youth immediately after they dropped out of school.
The report stated that reintegrating dropouts into the school system hinged on identifying and locating them immediately following their departure. The findings showed that there was a lack of communication among the various authorities, resulting in truant officers not passing along relevant information to the social workers in a timely manner. Furthermore, social workers in all three cities did not always follow procedure in initiating contact with youth, or conducting house visits, to properly assist and reintegrate them in the school system.
A special Knesset committee on the subject of school dropouts recommended that each school assign a “treatment counselor” to deal with dropouts and coordinate among all relevant bodies. However, the findings showed that none of the authorities adopted this recommendation and there was no regular flow of information among the relevant authorities.
Addressing the three local authorities, the comptroller said, “There is no coming to terms with a situation where it is obvious to the educational and social workers that some of the disconnected youth and dropouts will not be found, and despite this there are no intensive efforts to locate them.”
The report stated that it is the responsibility of the local authorities to ensure that every student attend school and that youths who do not attend school be immediately located.
The comptroller also issued an order to the three municipalities to adopt the Knesset committee’s recommendations, appoint a “treatment counselor” for each dropout, and coordinate among all the relevant authorities.