Daily Video

May 22, 2012

A Hands-On Approach to Teaching Dropouts

Since 1994, YouthBuild has trained 110,000 high school dropouts around the country to put up houses for their community and think critically in the classroom while earning their GEDs or diplomas.

The results are evident — 120 YouthBuild homes line the streets of Bloomington and its twin city, Normal. Drive 15 minutes outside town and you will find an entire low-income subdivision built by former dropouts.

YouthBuild McLean County is a charter school housed in a failed outlet mall, so there is plenty of room to teach English, math and construction to dropouts, ages 16 to 24.

While many applaud the work of YouthBuild, Economist Robert Lerman is not sure about the program’s benefits.

“Up until this point, we have not had really serious research that proves that it’s highly effective — it could be — or modest, or maybe even on just balance may not even capture its costs, ” he said.

YouthBuild director Suzanne Fitzgerald’s response?

“YouthBuild is a relatively expensive program. It’s a longer-term program than many of the other programs out there,” she said. “But when you look at any program, I think you have to look at what the return on investment is. And so, if you have young people coming out of YouthBuild and going back into the system, obviously that’s a poor return on investment. But that’s not what we see with YouthBuild.”


“Some people like learning like hands-on more than like just reading papers and stuff like that,” – Dontel Crowder, graduate.

Warm Up Questions

1. What is a drop out?

2. What does the term “hands-on” mean?

Discussion Questions

1. After watching the news story, what are your thoughts about YouthBuild?

2. If you had the option, would you like to attend a school like YouthBuild? Discuss.

Additional Resources

Video transcript

Florida Journalism Program Gives Students Reason to Stay in School

In Indiana School District, Dropouts Have Tech Alternative to Regular Classroom

‘Reclaim Your Future’: Vegas Aims to Change Odds for High School Dropouts

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