Tuesday, December 18, 2007

High School Dropout A Silent Epidemic - We Must Do Something (WMD'S #1)

Every 29 seconds, another student gives up on school. This translates into more than 1 million American high school students every year. Nearly 33% of all public high school student and 50% of all black, Hispanic and Native American students fail to graduate from public high school with their class.

Take a moment to forget about the question I have posted earlier, about whether our high school graduates will be able to compete in the global market in the 21st century. What about the one million students per year, who barely have a chance to compete here in the United States?

What surprises me most about high school dropouts, is the major reason why they drop out. I naively believed that it was due mostly to personal reasons, such as helping support a family, pregnancy, or care for a family member. From a study sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, I learned that nearly 50% of all dropouts do so because their classes are not interesting. Furthermore 70% have said they were not motivated to work hard and 66% said they would have worked harder if more had been demanded of them. Only 1/3 of all students dropout because of family or personal situations.

Our schools are failing our kids. As I read this study further it is unquestionably clear that dropping out is an act of last resort. A fair percentage of these students enter high school unprepared and are destined to fail. We all know “those” kids -- the one’s who struggled early on either academically, emotionally or socially. Teacher and peer expectations are lowered, kids become underachievers and before long it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As unhappy as some of these kids may be in school, none of them look forward to the day when they are old enough to drop out. The study pointed out that dropping out is not a “sudden act, but a gradual process of disengagement”. In other words, there is time to intervene before that last act is committed.

I realize the seemingly insurmountable challenges that teachers and other school officials contend with on a daily basis and I applaud their efforts to confront these challenges. I have only researched the tip of the iceberg when looking for nonprofit, for-profit and government agencies putting forth enormous efforts to help fight this problem. But here is my position.

If you look in the eyes of any child, no matter the age or socioeconomic background, and believe that each one individually wants to succeed, find happines and be a positive and contributing member to our society, then there’s the first step. Kids need someone who can believe in them. Every child wants to grow up to be something - ask any preschooler - they all have an answer. So much can go wrong during this process of growing up and graduating from high school and we come out the losers. There is so much potential that goes untapped because kids get lost along the way.

So, what can we do? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Think about becoming a mentor. I have had the privilege of being a mentor for the last years and I promise anyone who volunteers to give one on one time to a child will reap benefits that are far beyond anything you can imagine. Here is the website of mentoring.org which is the national clearinghouse for mentoring advocacy and programs. Check to see if your town has a program already in place. January is National Mentoring Month.

2) Check out your school district to see what its high school graduation rate is and how it compares to other towns in your state and the United States. Then decide if there is something you want to do about it if you are unhappy with the statistic.

3) Find out the presidential candidates stand on this issue.

4) Further educate yourself on the issue. This will get you started, or this

5) Think about education reform. Take a look at these stories and websites: NPR did a story today about Boulder's school system and an innovative approach to education, Edin08is a fairly new initiative, have a look.

And finally, here’s something to remember:
“Make a habit of two things: to help or at least to do no harm" ~ Hippocrates

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I do believe this, but I also worry that people blame the schools for their children's failures. A lot of parents could look in the mirror if they want to see where dropping out begins.

That said, there are lots of children whose parents cannot or will not encourage them, and mentoring is an excellent idea!

Emily R