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Shutting Down Dropout Factories

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This op-ed in the Nov. 23 edition of the Christian Science Monitor offers pretty powerful advice on how to shut down "dropout factories" and increase high school graduation rates. Here's an excerpt:

"The overwhelming number of dropouts surveyed in the report, "The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts," recognized that graduating is vital to their success. They told us they would have stayed on track to graduate if school had been more relevant, challenging, and supportive of their needs. They point the way toward reform – improved teaching and parental involvement to make school more engaging, a safe and orderly environment, stronger support for struggling students, and schools expecting them to graduate."

This essay really points to the importance of a supportive, motivating community for students. The authors of this piece argue that when kids are engaged in their classes and encouraged by teachers, parents, and their community to work hard, then they are much more likely to do so. But if they are expected to fail, then they won't disappoint.

More often than not, students look to teachers, family members, and friends for support and guidance. It's no surprise that students who have a community to motivate them are more likely to succeed. I feel lucky to have gone through school with two encouraging parents, a network of academically inclined friends, and a whole host of teachers who expected me to perform at (sometimes ridiculously) high levels, but the truth is, too many kids don't have any of those motivators.

So the question is: how do we ensure that all students are given high expectations to live up to? And how do we convince kids they're capable of reaching them?

3 Comments

A great place to start motivating kids, and educating parents on the importance of school, is www.LearnDoEarn.org. It's a website written from the perspective of employers and pretty much says, 'If you don't work hard in school, take rigorous courses, and build a strong work ethic - we're not going to hire you.' It hits home with the students - and gives parents information that will help them think twice before letting their kids get out of doing homework, reading, etc.


Some additional tools on dropout prevention.
Definitely a challenge worth focused attention.

In reading the article about the "drop-out factories" phenomenon, it was refreshing to see that parents were included as part of a student's "supportive community." Recently I read a synopsis of the Diplomas Count report and only once were parents mentioned as important variables for student success. I work with a program called Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors and our task is to reach out to parents with a parent-to-parent model where parents are taught the important role the family plays in student academic achievement. Parents are the missing part of the puzzle. Instead of alienating them we need to embrace their participation and include them as team players in the task of helping students progress through high school graduation and on to postsecondary education. Many school educators complain that parents do not participate because they don't care. Question: Why do you think parents do not participate in their children's school activities?

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