The US high school dropout rate dropped to a record low of 5.9% in 2015. Even at this low rate, however, almost one million students drop out of high school each year, a number which disproportionately affects certain geographies, races, and income levels. Comparing the US dropout rate to that of various European countries, including Finland and Portugal whose high school dropout rate reached less than 1% almost 10 years ago, it is evident that American schools still stand behind where they could be. So, what makes these students quit school, and what can we do to prevent it?
As is true for any social issue, multiple factors underlie students’ decisions to drop out of high school. Some of these factors are directly correlated, like high rates of absenteeism and low parental education, while others are more subtly or subjectively related, such as low levels of school engagement and socioeconomic status. However, the reason one student drops out of school is never the exact same as another: there are multiple layers of personal, social, and structural reasons influencing a student’s decision to drop out, and these layers vary from student to student. This also means that preventing a given student from dropping out is not doable through a single solution targeting one area of a student’s life. Instead, an end-to-end solution that can analyze and manage the entire scope of a student’s life is the ideal platform to establish successful prediction of, intervention for, and prevention of dropouts.
With the help of fast-developing digital technology like Predictive Analytics and Artificial Intelligence, we can now easily develop, implement, and adapt such an end-to-end solution in any educational setting. Current Artificial Intelligence technology is capable of executing machine learning and predictive analysis on any accumulation of data, which school administrators can use in their school systems to provide insights for personalized student achievement strategies. These strategies will then help decrease dropout rates and trigger early intervention, while also priming students for college along the way.
How exactly would this Predictive Analytics solution work? The answer is simple: analysis, identification, and enrollment. Over the last several years, every state department of education has been pushing to collect comprehensive student data that could lend insight into student performance and achievement. Applying Artificial Intelligence and Predictive Analytics to this data will determine even more precise student engagement patterns based upon a 360° view of every student. These analyses will enable the system to identify those at risk of dropping out. Once the list of at-risk students is finalized, the system will automatically enroll them into relevant engagement programs configured by the school. Thus, counselors and school officials can provide necessary attention and support to at-risk students before they realize they are at risk, decreasing dropout rates and boosting student engagement at the same time.
By incorporating the Predictive Analytics and Artificial Intelligence technology, the engagement programs themselves can also serve as a means to engage students. Through machine learning combined with predictive and learning analytics, Artificial Intelligence solutions can identify and implement prescriptive strategies to drive each student’s excitement in learning. These strategies will provide the students with individualized learning experiences precisely tailored to their own level and pace of learning, which will eventually help them get back on track towards academic success.
When you love doing something, you feel natural motivation to improve at it. Why not apply the same logic to education? The more engagement students experience in their learning, the more compelled they will feel to excel in school and beyond.
Let’s take a look at Andy’s story for example. Andy attends a high school in Baltimore and misses three days of school in September due to family issues. Knowing that 1) attendance patterns in September reflects the attendance pattern for the whole academic year and 2) chronic absence (two or more school days per month) correlates with a 7.4% higher chance of a student dropping out, the configured Artificial Intelligence system will automatically identify Andy as a student at-risk. Then, Andy will be enrolled into a program for students with chronic absenteeism, which will prompt his homeroom teacher and counselor to learn more about his family situations and find ways to keep him engaged and participating at school. The system finds out that Andy loves math but has trouble following his classmates in language classes, so it offers him help through chatbots or by giving out extra practice quizzes every week through student web portals. After a few months, he sees his grades improving, which motivates him to engage and learn even more. Andy begins to take an average of only one day off per month and comes one step closer to graduation each semester.
Artificial intelligence promises to change our world in major ways. Whether you agree with Mark Zuckerberg about its positive potential or with Elon Musk about its possible dark side, Artificial Intelligence is here to stay. At Mazik, we’re excited about new uses of Artificial Intelligence, especially in the education space. That is why we are offering an end-to-end Student Success Management solution, MazikEd Precision Education, developed to prevent dropouts and enhance student engagement. Built on Microsoft Dynamics 365, Azure predictive analytics, and machine learning, MazikEd brings a 360° view of each student’s journey to enable early intervention and productive engagement not only for the students at risk of dropping out, but equally over the general student population. Especially for students whose backgrounds correlate with at-risk factors, MazikEd promises to empower them by providing the tools to help them achieve academic success.
Together, Microsoft and Mazik aim to create solutions that empower every student in the planet today to create the world of tomorrow. With Precision Education made possible by predictive analytics and Artificial Intelligence technologies with MazikEd, we believe now is the time to take education into the modern era and make the world of tomorrow a reality.
 National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=16
 National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372
 Globalization – Finland: What’s the Secret to Its Success?, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/wherewestand/blog/globalization-finland-whats-the-secret-to-its-success/206/
 Child Trends, Databank Indicator, High School Dropout Rates, https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/high-school-dropout-rates/
 Linda S. Olsen, Why September Matters: Improving Student Attendance, http://baltimore-berc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/SeptemberAttendanceBriefJuly2014.pdf
 Effects of Chronic Absence in High School, https://www.communitiesinschools.org/our-stories/story/chronic-absence-high-school/
 Kurt Wagner, Mark Zuckerberg thinks AI fearmongering is bad. Elon Musk thinks Zuckerberg doesn’t know what he’s talking about, https://www.recode.net/2017/7/25/16026184/mark-zuckerberg-artificial-intelligence-elon-musk-ai-argument-twitter