In Public Schools

from the "outside" looking "in"

Do Drop Out

Posted by Admin On April - 9 - 2010

GBapril04The new challenge from the Obama administration is to keep students in school.  The incentive to make this happen is an investment of $3.5 billion dollars with an additional $900 million for turnaround grants in 2011. The grants are geared to identify and help turnaround schools with a lower than 60 percent graduation rate.  Identification, however, can only be the first step. The schools need to find why their students leave before they make any plan of action to encourage graduating from high school.

Some of the reasons for the drop out rate exist within the system. Students often see themselves as stupid or incapable because others labeled them so at an early age. Whether it is a parent or a teacher makes no difference, the child is a product of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson tested this theory on grades 1 through 6 at a predominately lower middle class school.

They told the teachers that the test was one that identified children about to have a significant spurt in academic growth. After they administered the tests, they identified to the teachers those randomly selected as top ten performers.  While the only difference between these particular students and any others was the fact the teacher believed they were about to make huge gains in academic learning, testing at the end of the school year showed that they actually made these gains.

The observer-expectancy effect, now known as Rosenthal’s Self Fulfilling Prophecy effect took place. The biggest growth was at the first and second grade level for the students randomly identified as educationally blossoming. The study shows how the attitude of both teachers and parents has a huge effect on the capabilities of the students.  It is one way to detour drop outs at an early age and examines the potential for searching for and reporting even small gains in learning to parents. It also is a reminder to teachers to discontinue using labels, particularly on school records.

Not all students drop out because of negative labeling at an early age. Some students simply face social pressures in school that make it difficult to function at a peak level and ultimately lead to school avoidance behavior and finally dropping out of school. This type of pressure can be either negative influences or aggression upon the student in the form of bullying.

Negative influences have to do with the prevailing attitude of education.  If students with good grades are viewed with distain in the neighborhood or education is seen of little value, then the system begins disadvantaged and drop out rates continue to soar. The challenge here is to use the school incentive program to enhance the image and purpose of a good education. Social norms require change but it’s a tall order for most schools and requires a special connection to the students and community to offset the effect.

Bullying is also part of the reason for the dropout rates. Bullying takes place when some students feel the need to control their environment. They often feel they don’t have any say in their future so they select a random victim they can control with bullying. Indentifying the bullies and those bullied early can reduce not only school dropout rates but also in-school violence.

While the incentive program is a start, it is imperative that teachers begin early to help reduce the dropout rates in the schools. These less educated students lower the statistics for the American schools and as a result infuse many unprepared adults into the workforce. Without the basic education necessary for an adequately paying position, the productivity of the country is at stake.

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