Friday, November 9, 2007

Tune In, Drop Out, Turn On

O came home from the bus stop the other day puzzling about the fact that a neighbor didn't know whether he planned to go to college. Turns out, O didn't know that was an option. So we had a nice talk about how what people know colors what they think their options are; if none of your relatives have gone to college, you don't necessarily think it's an option for you. If all of your relatives have gone to/taught in college, you don't even consider not going yourself. She is just beginning to tune in to class as it affects the people she knows.

At the NYSSBA Convention, graduation rate, or drop-out rate, was the topic of the day. With the state possibly considering raising the age from 16 to 18 (nice intentions, but potentially devastating results), Paul's been thinking about this a lot, too--looking especially for a way to turn on disaffected students. It's absolutely evident that the usual preK-12 path is not for everyone, whether you're Robert, who was too smart for high school and dropped out to go to Simon's Rock, or Bob, who was too bored in high school and dropped out to work at his uncle's garage. So we need some alternatives, and I am convinced that GED programs are not the alternatives we need--GED diplomas are not equivalent to high school diplomas either in material learned OR in earning power.

One of the sessions I went to at NYSSBA was by a former teacher at a wealthy North Shore school, where they had a graduation rate of 87% (equivalent to ours in Dryden, and better than many) but wanted to do better. By pulling two students out of BOCES and back into the school, they paid for a program through which this teacher absolutely dedicated herself to retaining the 20 students most likely to drop out. She meets with them daily, talks to parents weekly, goes on home visits if kids are absent, follows up on homework and other assignments, holds group talk sessions, and so on. In the first couple of years, the graduation rate zoomed to 99%. She is sure that dropping out stems from poor relationships, not from problems with academics.

One of the many problems with graduation rates is that no two districts seem to calculate them the same way. You would think with all of the matrices forced onto districts by the state, this would be one area where we were consistent.


Anonymous said...

I have pondered this issue myself. What I think it the issue is boredom, and also students that just need to be learning something more practical. For the "bored" students....why not offer them the opportunity to get some of there college courses out of the way? Offer them a opportunity to take some of there senior year courses at TC3, and recieve credit for the.

For those that need a more working path.......offer them more programs that are geared toward a technical trade.

There is also the model the Lehman school uses. Different students have different learning styles......need more structure, less structure etc. Maybe we need to have more options like that.


Anonymous said...

What the hell is NYSSBA?

KAZ said...

NYSSBA is the New York State School Boards Association. Dryden does offer many opportunities to take courses via TC3, and many students end up graduating ahead by a semester or even a year. Tech programs offered via BOCES are often years behind, and they don't offer modern courses in hospitality or other jobs that will be widespread in the 21st century. They do, however, graduate bazillions of cosmetology students each year, saying that they must offer the courses that kids want to take. The options offered at Lehman make sense to me but require a much more intimate setting than most schools now offer. And then there's the e-school concept. . . . Lots of possibilities, all of which we should be thinking about seriously.

Anonymous said...

THe other option would be to try to make the current classes more interesting.