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Diploma for drop-outs

UNITED STATES. Students who graduate from North High School in Denver, Colorado, get a diploma. So do those who quit.

But the school's "Certificate of Dropping Out" is meant to make them stay. Ornamented with Old English type and a fancy border, the certificate is just one tool in a campaign to lower North High's 30 per cent drop-out rate. Anyone who wants to leave is forced to sign it.

"By signing this disclaimer, I realise that I will not have the necessary skills to survive in the 21st century," the document reads. Attached is a bar chart showing that the monthly wages of high-school drop-outs average barely half those of graduates.

At least two students who have been confronted with the certificate decided not to quit, said the school's principal Joe Sandoval.

Last year, the inner-city school suffered an exodus of 561 students out of a total enrolment of about 1,800, the highest drop-out rate of Denver's 10 public high schools.

The certificate is the most flamboyant of several strategies to deter drop-outs.

Among the others are: monthly meetings of at-risk students, career training, home visits by school administrators and workshops in study skills and test-taking. Community volunteers have been recruited to work with students, while the commercial arts class has designed an anti-drop-out button that is being sported by administrators, teachers and students. "They're pulling out all the stops," said Richard Frye, a spokesman for the city's school system.

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