President Obama says Illinois should make kids stay in school longer. In Tuesday's State of the Union address, he said he wants all states to require high school students to be 18 years old before they are eligible to drop out. Illinois – one of 23 states which has a lower dropout age - raised its limit from 16 to 17 in 2005. Illinois State Board of Education spokesman Matt Vanover says there was a positive effect.
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“What we are seeing that has happened is that students who would drop out their junior year are now sticking around their senior year. They're like 'OK, I'm just a couple months away from getting that diploma anyways I'm going to go ahead and finish it out,'” Vanover said. Illinois Education Association spokesman Charlie McBarron says while the benefits of the president's proposal outweigh the costs, schools have to hit students early to get to the root of the problem. “Their freshman year, if there is an intervention and those students are assisted on the front end of their high school careers, the likelihood that they will graduate can be greatly increased. That's the kind of thing that we're talking about,” McBarron says.