Among the most desirable educational goals the state has set is the one calling for a substantial reduction in the dropout rate for high school students. Lawmakers in Augusta passed a bill this year that called for increasing the state’s overall graduation rate to 90 percent by the end of the 2015-16 school year from the 80 percent recorded in 2006-07.

That’s a substantial challenge, because studies show there is no single reason why students stop attending school before graduation.

They include lack of parental involvement in students’ performance in school (and often in their lives in general); repeated use of drugs or alcohol; violence against fellow students or adults in the school setting or outside of it; abuse by adults, either caretakers or not; bullying by other students; and lack of involvement in their situations by teachers and administrators. And that’s only a partial list.

In addition, the dropout rate varies widely by school system and region, with some systems already meeting or exceeding the state goal and others falling far short of it.

Dropping out is a significant social problem because young adults who fail to graduate from high school become more involved with criminal activity, are more dependent on state assistance and are more likely not to have health care coverage due to sporadic work histories.

So, a 26-member group of educators and other specialists are working on creating a program listing the most effective techniques for keeping kids from leaving school. They are due to submit their recommendations to the state by Nov. 1, with a report to the Legislature due by Jan. 10, 2011.

It’s an important task, and that report will deserve serious consideration and thoughtful implementation. Many students’ futures depend on it.