Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Drop Outs and Their Causes

A “Letter to the Editors” in today’s JS written by Bob Lillie titled “Do the math on Education Reform” prompts this blog. Mr. Lillie now lives in Phoenix but is formerly from Eureka. Mr. Lillie says he has been involved as a teacher and administrator for 27 years and has a master’s degree in education administration from Bradley.

Mr. Lillie writes “I would like to see a national survey asking the American public how many have used algebra and trigonometry since they left high school. I would also like our politicians (many who live in scholastic ivory towers; my comments) who mandate these tests, to themselves take the state required tests and have their scores published before each election.” He continues “Isn’t it a form of discrimination to force all our young people to compete with unequal abilities? (And unequal abilities and motivations? My comments).

On 10/30/07 the JS pushed an article by an AP writer “School Dropout numbers dismal” and on 7/23/07 the JS published an article saying one out of ten Illinois Schools are labeled dropout factories. A reputable study showed that 1700 regular or vocational schools held on to 60 percent or less of their students from freshman to senior year over a three year period.

No Peoria school was on that list. #150 graduation rate was 83.1% with Richwoods listed as the highest and Manual listed as the lowest at 66.5%.

I am somewhat suspect of these local figures as it was no more than two years ago; I was told by an administrator that #150 did not have a tracking system. Earlier, during the term of Ed Bradle and John Day, I was told that the suspected dropout rate from 1st grade thru 12th grade was 50% and that the district did not have a tracking system.

I also know that some kids picked up for excessive truancy attend school only because that is part of the agreement reached to get them back in the classroom. Being in classrooms does not necessarily mean any learning process is going on (don’t believe me, go visit some classrooms in session and see first hand)

Communities have continual dialogue over giving all kids an equal opportunity. I agree. Many teachers and administrators know that not all kids have the same abilities, interest or drive. Too many kids take the attitude that the school offers little or nothing of interest to them. This is where politicians who probably did like school and got a reasonable education have got it wrong. They feel the curriculums set by mandate will be accepted by all kids. That is mostly true of most college bound kids.

But what about kids who have unequal abilities, unequal interests and unequal motivations and at this early stage of their life have neither the means or interest in going to college? Those are the ones I feel we are leaving behind and those who often become dropouts. Curriculums have been broadened to try to keep kids in schools. Administrators do know that not all kids are college bound. So why have mandated requirements that they take college entry level courses?

Kids must be offered basic courses that kids have the skills and the interest to complete and to get passing grades. Administrators show that they do offer a diverse curriculum but if not enough kids sign up for these classes, the school can’t afford to assign a teacher.

I have long contended that school personnel have to do a better “selling” job to keep kids from becoming dropouts. Every kid has an interest in something meaningful and some type of talent. A column was devoted tin the JS a number of years ago about a dropout who made it big on Broadway of somewhere in the entertainment field. Maybe one out of 100,000; similar to high school or even college basketball stars ever making money playing as professionals. Very, very few.

Ask any kid not interested in school and over 13 years old and they can name less than half a dozen that were very successful in sports or entertainment. I have and some can’t even name more than three. The name many of them think of first is Hersey Hawkins. Wrong.

The kid and parent (yes, both) have no excuse for not being able to learn to read and write, reasonably well. That is a mandatory requirement for everyone. Starting immediately, schools must help kids develop a reasonably positive attitude, a work ethic, the ability to accept critiquing and leadership, the ability to have dialogue and communicate their feelings and needs, accept personal responsibility, be dependable, have integrity and to be clean and well groomed. With these basic attributes, I see no reason why any kid can’t become a positive contributor to society.

There are of course points of no return in school just as there are in life. When all else fails, the kid becomes a ward of society. With the help of social agencies or law enforcement agencies or other outside the school assistance, they eventually may become productive citizens of a community.

That is why society must make every effort to get kids involved in a meaningful and productively involved childhood by the time they reach fourth or fifth grade. It seems after 3rd grade, many kids fall too far behind and never catch up with their peers who have a greater realization of what it takes to make it successfully through at least 12 grades and with enough learning and preparation to lead a reasonably successful life.

You can’t force a kid to learn in any school or in life IF they have made up their minds that they do not want to. But give them plenty of opportunity to change their minds.

Many do. The rest fill our juvenile courts, jails, prisons or become welfare dependents and blaming others for the sad situations of their lives.

1 comment:

AdamB said...

I agree with most of that. Most kids are just dumb as a brick. They just don't have the synapses to handle trig, and they don't care anyway. Teach them instead how to plumb or mop floors and let them get to work after the 5th grade.

Even Richwoods is a cesspool filled with people who'd rather be elsewhere. I have fond memories of a few of my teachers there, but only because they retained some humanity in the face of an overwhelmingly depressing situation. It's a daycare service--a low-security juvenile detention center to keep kids off the streets. Teachers are more like prison guards than educators.

It'd be better for everyone to just clean the place out. Students should only come to school if they really want to learn something. Otherwise they might as well get a head start on that retail career.