copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert
Eva was young, full of life, eager to learn. She was enthusiastic. These traits were attractive to all the youthful men in her High School class. Many courted the vibrant lass. Eric won her attention. Each was looking for love. Throughout their lives, these adolescents felt less than connected to their respective families. School was a social forum, a place where it was possible to relate to peers, if not the curriculum. Perhaps, that is why, at such a tender age Eric and Eva mistakenly thought lust, the chemical energy experienced during their every exchange, was deeper than a mere physical desire. The two embraced and baby made three.
At fifteen years-of- age, Eva felt forced to dropout of school. As a committed Mom, she decided she must attend to her baby. With the birth of a child, Eric too concluded he had a greater mission than school. He must devote his life to his offspring. In a moment of lovemaking, the lives of many changed. Eva and Eric started a family; that entity became their future.
The couple is among the seven thousand [7,000] High School students who drop out each day. Every year the silent epidemic expands. The number of students that leave the school system is equivalent to the population of Philadelphia. The large number of dropouts affects our nation’s neighborhoods. If we are to slow, or stop the cycle, we must drastically change what we do in our schools. As an individual and as a community, we must show we care.
Some organizations have already become involved. Communities In Schools works to help our youth stay in school and prepare for life. However, one alliance cannot go it alone. We must share resources. However, first, we need to recognize the crisis, evaluate what seems endemic. The tale of Eva and Eric is telling.
Early adult responsibilities. An individual’s nonschool experiences also have been found to impact dropout. When adolescents are forced to take on adult responsibilities, it decreases their likelihood of staying in school until graduation. Possible responsibilities range from becoming a teen parent (Cairns, Cairns, & Neckerman, 1989; Gleason & Dynarski, 2002; Rumberger, 2001), having to take a job to help out his or her family (Jordan, Lara, & McPartland, 1994), or having to care for siblings (Rosenthal, 1998). Combining school with working at a job more than 20 hours a week significantly increases the likelihood that a student will leave school before graduating (Barro & Kolstad, 1987; Goldschmidt & Wang, 1999; Wehlage & Rutter, 1986).
Josh was a strapping young man. He was bright; however, not brilliant. His parents provided for him as best they could. Nonetheless, Josh felt overwhelmed. He often thought his Mom needed him too much. Dad was emotionally detached. Physically, the father tried to be there for his son Joshua. However, he did not know how to be a good parent. He had never seen one; nor had he experienced the unconditional love of his own mother or father.
While Josh felt close to his parents, he also desperately wanted to get away from their clutches. At school, recruiters filled the halls. These military men and women were friendly. They strolled about campus with grace and refinement. For such young folks, these uniformed soldiers were truly quite sophisticated. The smiles of these servicemen and women gleamed, just as brass buttons on their gear did. The troops that circulated throughout the school grounds wore patent leather shoes that reflected the sunlight. Each time Josh saw the glow from the footwear dance in the air, he felt the force of fate touch him.
Josh looked up to the troops he knew. They treated him a as brother, a friend. Josh felt these fellows and gals genuinely cared.
Ultimately, Josh was drawn in, or he was released from the obligations, the resignation, he experienced at home. The young man saw the military as a way out and a way into a family different from his own. Josh wanted to belong, to be a part of something, not needed, but wanted. He joined the Armed forces before he graduated from High School.
Joshua believed he could not stand one more moment in his parents’ home. He never really liked school. He was bored, detached, and looking for something. The Marines, Army, or Navy would surely provide the expectant adolescent lad with adventure, a sense of belonging, a job, and funds for a college education, if later, he determined that was what he wanted. Once in the military, Josh was certain his mother and father could no longer decide what was right for him. Josh is as one of three adolescents that do not graduate from High School.
Family dynamics. Some studies have found a link between family processes and relationships and graduation. The quality of early caregiving and mother-child relationships was found in one study to be significantly linked to dropout (Jimerson et al., 2000).
Grace was a giving girl. She was the child of immigrant parents. Her mother and father worked multiple low-wage jobs for as long as she could remember. Without adequate language skills, it was difficult for her parents to secure a professional position. The family, much as they tried, was never truly stable. They appeared solvent. However, the cost of this façade was great. The youthful Grace sacrificed herself daily. She was mother to her less mature siblings. She was father as well. Grace was the family caretaker; yet, no one seemed interested; nor was anyone available to care for Grace.
Grace rose each morning before dawn. She scrambled around the house, prepared breakfast for the other brood; then, made the beds, and helped her brothers and sisters dress. Before Grace scooted the children out the door, she forged signatures on school permission slips. After, the children were off to class, Grace gathered her own books together, threw some snacks into a backpack, and hustled herself off to the bus. She too attended classes. Grace was a student.
As Grace aged, she tired. By the time she reached her sophomore year in High School, she was exhausted. Grace hoped that soon this cycle would end. Her sisters and brothers were getting older. Perchance they would be able to care for themselves, and Grace could dedicate herself to her studies. However, that was not her parents’ plan.
As Grace entered her junior year her parents proposed, now that she was of age, she could help financially support the family.
Years of sweat and toil paid off. Mamma and Papa were able to purchase a small business. The demands of entrepreneurship were vast. The store must be manned. Supplies purchased. Books must be kept. Community and customer relations were a priority if the shop was to succeed. Grace was now expected to watch over the younger siblings, continue with her schooling, care for her personal needs, and take on the responsibilities of a job. Her family depended on her. Grace, physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually was drained. Something had to go. It would be Grace herself. The teenage girl dropped out of High School. If she could not have an education, at least she had family.
Background characteristics. A student’s family background and home experience exert a powerful influence over educational outcomes, including dropping out of school. One of the most consistent family background factors found to impact dropout has been socioeconomic status (SES), whether measured through parental education, income, or occupational level (Alexander et al. 2001; Battin-Pearson et al., 2000; Cairns et al., 1989; Lehr et al., 2004; Rumberger, 2001; Schargel, 2004; Wehlage & Rutter, 1986). Youth in non-English-speaking homes have been found to be more likely to drop out (Rosenthal, 1998; Rumberger, 2001).
“High school dropouts are 72% more likely to be unemployed than those who graduate.” Many of those that leave a formal education behind will never have a job. Fortunately, Grace will not be among those. For every four state prison inmates nationwide three failed to earn a high school diploma. High school dropouts are three times more likely than high school graduates to become poor in the span of a year. Eddy might find himself in one or all of these categories.
Eddy is a passionate young man, since birth, he wanted to experience everything. He had a thirst for knowledge. Eddy is likable. He is fun. This chap is animated and he desired to do it all. At the age of five Eddy began to imbibe with his Dad. His father may or may not have been classified as an alcoholic, for he could and did hold his liquor. Eddy learned to handle his booze as well; he had to. Time with Daddy was important to the youngster. To be with his father physically [and emotionally] he needed to do as Papa had done.
By the age of twelve, Eddy found drugs . . . in Dad’s car. The father, for all his life, felt the pressure of being a Black man in America. No matter the job, this dark skinned man, was met with discrimination. Eddy’s male role model never felt as though others could get past the color of his skin; therefore, he believed he would never be able to succeed as he yearned to do. The pressure was great. The desire to escape was greater.
Eddy admired his Dad. He did not fully grasp the elder man’s struggles. Eddy only wished to do as his father did. Not long after his first “high” Eddy realized he was hooked. His habit was costly; attendance in school and failing grades were among the debts Eddy incurred. The teen faltered in school. He was a slave to his drugs and to his supplier.
John, a gent from a good family resided in an affluent neighborhood, was of quality stock. Jonathon’s parents were professionals, respected in the community. John’s Dad had connections in the corporate world; his mother was a physician. The two met in law school. Generations of Jonathon’s family were high achievers. The progeny of such prominent persons was expected to do no less than the dynasty that preceded them.
A casual observer would never know that Jonathan was out of control. He wore elegant clothing, drove a new and sporty car; cash fell from his pockets. John, just as Eddy did drugs. Unlike Eddy, this wealthy wheeler-dealer sold medications, legal, illegal, and lethal quantities of narcotics. His “business” was profitable. John had no reason to attend school. He was doing well without an education. Jonathon never imagined that he might be corporally caged. Only opiates, pills, uppers, downers, and dope incarcerated John and perhaps Eddy. Substance abuse and attitudes associated with these activities are common among potential dropouts.
High-risk attitudes, values, and behaviors.
Children and adolescents may also have general attitudes and behaviors that increase the likelihood that they will not graduate. Early antisocial behavior, such as violence, substance use, or trouble with the law, has been linked in a number of studies to dropping out of school (Battin-Pearson et al., 2000; Ekstrom et al., 1986; Wehlage & Rutter, 1986).
A life of crime is common among High School dropouts. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, In 1997, more than 64 percent of inmates housed in state and federal prisons, as well as in local jails, had not graduated from high school. Drugs were not the only reason for criminal activity. Poverty exasperates all situations. Burglary, robbery, assault, battery, looting, loitering, each is likely when a person is poor, out of sorts and without hope. If America were to invest in its children’s education, authentically, the juvenile would become an autonomous adult and 1.92 billion dollars would be saved for every 50 thousand children rescued from the streets.
Much as we might marvel at the woes of High Schoolers, we must accept that the problems begin long before our young enter secondary school. If a young person is left behind, or held back a grade, one time, an estimated 72 percent will inevitably drop out before they complete their High School education. If held back twice, 100 percent will drop out.
Dropping out of school is related to a variety of factors that can be classified in four areas or domains: individual, family, school, and community factors . . .
- There is no single risk factor that can be used to accurately predict who is at risk of dropping out.
- The accuracy of dropout predictions increases when combinations of multiple risk factors are considered.
- Dropouts are not a homogeneous group. Many subgroups of students can be identified based on when risk factors emerge, the combinations of risk factors experienced, and how the factors influence them.
- Students who drop out often cite factors across multiple domains and there are complex interactions among risk factors.
- Dropping out of school is often the result of a long process of disengagement that may begin before a child enters school.
- Dropping out is often described as a process, not an event, with factors building and compounding over time.
No matter the person, or the occurrence, nothing happens in an isolation. The decision to dropout of school does not materialize in a moment. A student does not exit the educational system on a whim. As we assess the supposed facts and the figures as they pertain to High School dropouts, we must accept and acknowledge the reason students leave school cannot be simply stated. The truth is dropout rates are high regardless of socio-economic status.
In today’s data-happy era of accountability, testing and No Child Left Behind, here is the most astonishing statistic in the whole field of education: an increasing number of researchers are saying that nearly 1 out of 3 public high school students won’t graduate, not just in [chose a “pleasantly unremarkable” town] but around the nation. For Latinos and African Americans, the rate approaches an alarming 50%. Virtually no community, small or large, rural or urban, has escaped the problem.
There is a small but hardy band of researchers who insist the dropout rates don’t quite approach those levels. They point to their pet surveys that suggest a rate of only 15% to 20%. The dispute is difficult to referee, particularly in the wake of decades of lax accounting by states and schools.
But the majority of analysts and lawmakers have come to this consensus: the numbers have remained unchecked at approximately 30% through two decades of intense educational reform, and the magnitude of the problem has been consistently, and often willfully, ignored.
In a nation known to be the world’s superpower, children suffer and have for scores of years. Millions endure in families that do not meet their needs. Then they enter a school system inadequate to prepare them for a life better than the one their parents had.
That’s starting to change. During his most recent State of the Union address, President George W. Bush promised more resources to help children stay in school, and Democrats promptly attacked him for lacking a specific plan. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has trained its moneyed eye on the problem, funding “The Silent Epidemic,” a study issued in March that has gained widespread attention both in Washington and in statehouses around the country.
The attention comes against a backdrop of rising peril for dropouts. If their grandparents’ generation could find a blue-collar niche and prosper, the latest group is immediately relegated to the most punishing sector of the economy, where whatever low-wage jobs haven’t yet moved overseas are increasingly filled by even lower-wage immigrants. Dropping out of high school today is to your societal health what smoking is to your physical health, an indicator of a host of poor outcomes to follow, from low lifetime earnings to high incarceration rates to a high likelihood that your children will drop out of high school and start the cycle anew.
We may be able to identify the problem for one individual or another. However, if we are to create change, we must do more than recognize the ills of society or the difficulties within a given home. In a recent edition of Time Magazine, Journalist Nathan Thornburgh studied the students enrolled in Shelbyville High School, 30 miles southeast of Indianapolis, Indiana, and those that were no longer registered for classes, although they were of age. Thornburgh writes of a population ready to recognize and resolve a crisis.
Identifying the problem is just the first step. The next moves are being made by towns like Shelbyville, where a loose coalition of community leaders and school administrators have, for the first time, placed dropout prevention at the top of the agenda. Now they are gamely trying to identify why kids are leaving and looking for ways to reverse the tide.
At the request of a former principal, a local factory promised to stop tempting dropouts with jobs. Superintendent David Adams is scouting vacant storefronts for a place to put a new alternative high school. And Shelbyville’s Republican state representative, Luke Messer, sponsored a bill, signed into law by the Governor two weeks ago, that will give students alternatives to traditional high school while imposing tough penalties on those who try to leave early without getting permission from the school district or a judge.
However, punitive measures might not be the answer. Many of the children that choose to leave campus have been threatened before. School bullies can cause a child to flee and seek sanctuary elsewhere. Yet, for more adolescents the bigger browbeater was at home, and would be part of their lives even after they exited the educational system. Perchance, for most of the pupils no one would punish them more severely than they did themselves. The heart of a person that fears they failed feels much pain. Perhaps, a child that believes they can never be their best brings great sorrow to self.
Thirty-five percent said that “failing in school” was a major factor for dropping out; three out of ten said they could not keep up with schoolwork; and 43 percent said they missed too many days of school and could not catch up.
Forty-five percent said they started high school poorly prepared by their earlier schooling. Many of these students likely fell behind in elementary and middle school and could not make up the necessary ground. They reported that additional supports in high school that would have made a difference (such as tutoring or after school help) were not there.
Thirty-two percent were required to repeat a grade before dropping out and twenty-nine percent expressed significant doubts that they could have met their high school’s requirements for graduation even if they had put in the necessary effort. The most academically challenged students were the most likely to report that their schools were not doing enough to help students when they had trouble learning and to express doubt about whether they would have worked harder if more had been expected of them.
Sadly, a student in distress often acts outs and does not speak of what truly troubles them. For decades, schools worked to push pupils out if they did not perform as expected. This trend is accelerated under No Child Left Behind. The Bush Administrations is happy to fund schools with high achievers. Educational institutions unable to statistically verify that pupils learn well, or more accurately test well receive less tax dollars. A school that ranks poorly may be subject to more severe actions. Thus, schools are encouraged to releases non-performers. A learning institution benefits if the number of “good” students is high.
For scholars bored with rote and mechanical methods of instruction, an invitation to exit campus permanently may be welcome. Early in life, without much guidance to help an adolescent reflect on the future, a jaded student might simply feel relieved at the prospect of a presumed perpetual freedom.
Rachel was among those pupils pushed out. As are most intelligent individuals, Rachel was chatty. In class, she was often told to be more considerate of others. Teachers reminded her that her classmates were there to learn. The implication was Rachel had no desire to develop her skills and intellectual capacity. This was not true. The regal in appearance Rachel yearned for knowledge. For her, it seemed she acquired more information when she was away from school. She certainly had more fun.
The rebellious Rachel could be confrontational. She was a troubled teen from a tumultuous home. Each day she encountered another trauma. Her parents placed her life in turmoil. Mom yelled. Dad hit. The other children in her family cried. There was much chaos in the sanctuary of her domicile. At school, the girl did not feel cherished or treasured; she was only a bit safer. Still, even in this setting Rachel was unwanted.
The instructor knew that Rachel skipped class; she roamed the streets. Friends drove her to all the sites she had yet to see. Those a little older than Rachel were able to travel further in their automobiles. Acquaintances took her to worlds where she could discover and explore. A few of her pals already dropped out. Others cut class with Rachel. The teachers and the school Administrators were truly fine with Rachel’s absence. Her presence was a distraction and disruption.
Rachel had accumulated so many tardies. She was gone from class more often more than she appeared. Her grades, well, there is no accounting for the taste of an “F”. Over time, Rachel became bored with a life less than focused. She returned to school and inquired how might she get back on track.
A Vice Principal, the person usually responsible for pupils with behavioral problems asked Rachel if she might not wish to leave the system permanently. After all, poor Rachel had fallen so far behind. She obviously was not happy in school. Perhaps it would be best for her if she just quit. Had she thought of applying for emancipation from her parents. Perchance that would relieve the pressure and the young woman could get on with her life. Rachel was ripe for change. She failed at being a student and in her mind, through no fault of her own, she botched up family life. Hence, Rachel dropped out.
Currently, Rachel is older and wiser. However, she still fears she cannot succeed. She did acquire a GED [General Educational Development] certificate. Therefore, she was able to secure a decent, though not great job. She married, has a wonderful husband and exceptional children. Yet, she remains unfulfilled. Rachel would like to enter college. She wants to set an example for her offspring. However, her history haunts her. This intelligent woman, without much of a formal education, fears she cannot succeed in a University. Rachel feels foolish enough. The grown woman has no desire to look idiotic in front of youthful scholars. To appear as a dunce in the company of professors is not what she craves. Rachel stays where she is and where she was. She has little hope.
A once rebellious woman is now resigned. Rachel is content; yet, she wonders what would her life have like if only someone stopped and paid attention to her, as a person. Rachel’s circumstance is not unusual.
Researchers call students like [Rachel] “pushouts,” not dropouts. Shelbyville High’s new principal, Tom Zobel, says he’s familiar with the mind-set. “Ten years ago,” he says, “if we had a problem student, the plan was, ‘O.K., let’s figure out how to get rid of this kid.’ Now we have to get them help.”
These words echo in the minds of educators aware of the need for Federal funds. No Child Left Behind leaves little leeway. In the present, as in the past some state . . .
[Ca]n educators really be faulted for the calculation, however cold, that certain kids are an unwise investment of their limited energies and resources? That question quickly leads to the much thornier issues of class and clout that shape the dropout crisis.
The national statistics on the topic are blunt: according to the National Center for Education Statistics, kids from the lowest income quarter are more than six times as likely to drop out of high school as kids from the highest. And in Shelbyville, nearly every dropout I met voiced a similar complaint: teachers and principals treat the “rich kids” better. “The rich kids always knew how to be good kids,” says Sarah in a more nuanced version of the same refrain. “So I guess it’s natural the schools wanted to work with them more than with the rest of us.” The poor kids, though, are exactly the ones who need the extra investment.
Granted, the underprivileged among us are more likely to dropout or be pushed out and aside. Characteristically those of little means are treated cruelly by a system that rather not know they exist. Nonetheless, they do and in creasing numbers. The volume of dropouts and pushouts increases in the inner city and in the suburbs. Our children are troubled; yet, we consider them as trouble.
No one notices the distress a teen feels. Few listen to their pleas. Rarely are the impoverished authentically counted. Perhaps that is why Americans did not realize the extent of this catastrophe. Now, we might recognize the disaster. We have become a Dropout Nation.
Schools nationwide never imagined the calamity was as widespread as it is. While throughout the country the populace clamors for accountability and the White House sets standards, the criterion used to establish dropout rates differs from District to District and even from school to school. Frequently, formulas used to calculate who completed all their coursework and when are manipulated to ensure that schools will secure funds. At times, the numbers are juggled solely to appease the citizenry.
For years, Shelbyville [as was true in other schools] had been comforted by its self-reported–and wildly inaccurate–graduation rate of up to 98%. The school district arrived at that number by using a commonly accepted statistical feint, counting any dropout who promises to take the GED test later on as a graduating student.
The GED trick is only one of many deployed by state and local governments around the country to disguise the real dropout rates. Houston, for example, had its notorious “leaver codes”–dozens of excuses, such as pregnancy and military service, that were often applied to students who were later reclassified as dropouts by outside auditors.
The Federal Government has been similarly deceptive, producing rosy graduation-rate estimates–usually between 85% and 90%–by relying only on a couple of questions buried deep within the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. The survey asks whether respondents have a diploma or GED. Critics say the census count severely underreports dropout numbers, in part because it doesn’t include transients or prisoners, populations with a high proportion of dropouts.
It is evident that not all is as it appears. In 2001, Jay Greene, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, published a study titled High School Graduation Rates in the United States. His research examined the stratum of arithmetical adroitness associated with commencement statistics. As Greene pondered the raw education data, he began to appreciate that he could not answer the question often asked. What percentage of students receives a high school diploma? The response is, it depends. After closer scrutiny, even Greene admitted he needed to revise his report.
The report’s main findings are the following:
- The national graduation rate for the class of 1998 was 71%. For white students the rate was 78%, while it was 56% for African-American students and 54% for Latino students.
- Georgia had the lowest overall graduation rate in the nation with 54% of students graduating, followed by Nevada, Florida, and Washington, D.C.
- Iowa had the highest overall graduation rate with 93%, followed by North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.
- Wisconsin had the lowest graduation rate among African-American students with 40%, followed by Minnesota, Georgia, and Tennessee. Georgia had the lowest graduation rate among Latino students with 32%, followed by Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Less than 50% of African-American students graduated in seven states and less than 50% of Latino students graduated in eight states for which data were available.
- The highest rate of graduation among African-American students was 71% in West Virginia, followed by Massachusetts, Arkansas, and New Jersey. The highest rate of graduation among Latino students was 82% in Montana, followed by Louisiana, Maryland, and Hawaii.
- Cleveland City had the lowest graduation rate among African-American students with 29%, followed by Milwaukee, Memphis, and Gwinett County, Georgia. Cleveland City also had the lowest graduation rate among Latino students, followed by Georgia’s Dekalb, Gwinnett, and Cobb counties. Less than 50% of African-American students graduated in fifteen of forty-five districts for which there was sufficient data, and less than 50% of Latino students graduated in twenty-one of thirty-six districts for which there was sufficient data.
- The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) finds a national high school completion rate of 86% for the class of 1998. The discrepancy between the NCES’ finding and this report’s finding of a 71% rate is largely caused by NCES’ counting of General Educational Development (GED) graduates and others with alternative credentials as high school graduates, and by its reliance on a methodology that is likely to undercount dropouts.
Overwhelmed by the predicament, you dear reader might ask what are we to do. I believe we must cultivate relationships. I have long advocated that human interaction is the greatest instructor; empathy is the best educator. If we wish to encourage our offspring, we must engage them authentically. If they are to believe in themselves, they must trust to their core that we believe in them.One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety- nine who have only interest.
~ John Stuart Mill [Philosopher]
In March 2006, a report sponsored by the Civic Enterprises in Association with Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,
experts examined what they call, The Silent Epidemic,
Perspectives of High School Dropouts. Researchers John M. Bridgeland, John J. DiIulio, Jr., and Karen Burke Morison realized what dropouts and pushouts have long known. If a child is to be motivated, if they are to truly learn, and become autonomous critical thinkers they need attention and assistance. A caring mentor makes all the difference.
A survey of former students revealed the children understood what would have helped them to stay in school. Indeed, those that floundered were intelligent enough to communicate what they needed then. Now, with thanks to this more honest examination they had an opportunity to share. If society and schools are to save the youth of America, we must . . .
- Improve instruction, and access to supports, for struggling students: Four out of five (81 percent) wanted better teachers and three fourths wanted smaller classes with more individualized instruction. More than half (55 percent) felt that more needed to be done to help students who had problems learning, and 70 percent believed more tutoring, summer school and extra time with teachers would have improved their chances of graduating.
- Build a school climate that fosters academics:
Seven in ten favored increasing supervision in school and more than three in five (62 percent) felt more classroom discipline was necessary. More than half (57 percent) felt their schools did not do enough to help students feel safe from violence. Seven in ten (71 percent) said their schools did not do enough to make school interesting.
- Ensure that students have a strong relationship with at least one adult in the school: While two-thirds (65 percent) said there was a staff member or teacher who cared about their success, only 56 percent said they could go to a staff person for school problems and just two-fifths (41 percent) had someone in school to talk to about personal problems. More than three out of five (62 percent) said their school needed to do more to help students with problems outside of class. Seven in ten favored more parental involvement.
- Improve the communication between parents and schools: Seventy-one percent of young people surveyed felt that one of the keys to keeping students in school was to have better communication between the parents and the school, and increasing parental involvement in their child’s education. Less than half said their school contacted their parents or themselves when they were absent (47 percent) or when they dropped out (48 percent).
In truth, we must all care for the children. Elders must be intimately involved in the lives of our progeny. If schools continue to be a source of statistics and a corral for our children, we serve no one, young or old. Indeed, we hurt ourselves if we harm our offspring or hinder their growth.
Sarah knows of pain. She was a happy child, a brilliant girl. For all her life, Sarah defined “scholar.” In her sophomore year in High School, her teachers noticed a change. Although Sarah attended classes regularly and was still friendly, this talkative teen seemed extremely disinterested. Sarah was distracted; yet, no one at school knew why.
In her junior year, a new instructor entered the lovely young lady’s life. This educator, Miss Adams sat with the students as they worked. She developed a relationship with each pupil. The teacher personalized lessons. Miss Adams understood. Students [people] are authentically engaged when they relate to the subject, when information is personally relevant. This instructor also trusted that adolescents truly yearn to learn.
Sarah felt safe when with Miss Adams. One day as the two sat at a table, Sarah reveled that her father committed suicide the year before. He shot himself in the head, in front of this tender teen. “The police do not clean up after such an incident; the family does,” Sarah said. Miss Adams listened intently as Sarah shared her story. Later, the educator was able to enlighten other teachers and counselors. Everyone was touched. They never knew.
Belatedly, the school community reached out to the sorrowful Sarah. Slowly, this young teen worked through her worries, with a little help from those that cared. That was everyone. The sadness is, in a school [or society] where statistics rule, much is lost, mostly the students, our young people, the next generation. Teens dropout, or are pushed out. We all suffer when we do not attend to more than roll sheets and rank.
Next time you walk past the school in your neighborhood, please listen for more than the noise. See more than your tax dollars going to waste. Invest in the littlest individuals more fully. Embrace education, it is more than facts, figures, formulas, or failed students or teachers.
References, Resources, Sources for Student Support . . .
- Communities In Schools
- Education and the Nation’s Civic and Economic Health. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
- How Communities in Schools Work. Communities in Schools.
- Dropout Nation, By Nathan Thornburgh. Time Magazine. Sunday, Apr. 09, 2006
- pdf Dropout Nation, By Nathan Thornburgh. Time Magazine. Sunday, Apr. 09, 2006
- Dropout Risk Factors and Exemplary Programs. By Cathy Hammond, Dan Linton, Jay Smink, Sam Drew. National Dropout Prevention Center and Communities In Schools. May 2007
- High School Graduation Strongly Linked To Future Prospects. Educational Development.
- High School Graduation Rates in the United States, By Jay P. Greene, Ph. D. The Manhattan Institute. Revised April 2002
- The Silent Epidemic, Perspectives of High School Dropouts. By: John M. Bridgeland, John J. DiIulio, Jr., and Karen Burke Morison. Civic Enterprises in Association with Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. March 2006