Tuesday, March 21, 2006

School Dropouts

I received the following email describing a study of high school dropouts from Phil Noble, Executive Director of the SC Democratic Leadership Council.

The SCDLC's suggestion about what our reaction to this study should be is at the bottom of his email.

I'd love you know your what you think our reaction should be.

School Dropouts

A Startling New Study – Effective Solutions

This is one of the most interesting studies I have seen in a long time. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation asked students why they dropped out – and they gave some unexpected answers.

South Carolina’s drop out rate is 50th in the country. We lose over 40% of our students.

The study has received a great deal of attention nationally, but we have heard virtually nothing in South Carolina. We need to change that.

This is not some egg head academic or ivory tower policy group study; this is an unvarnished look at why kids say they drop out (Spartanburg was included in the study) and more importantly, what we can do about it - today.

In many ways the findings are as optimistic and they are unexpected. The key finding is:

While some students drop out because of significant academic challenges, most dropouts are students who could have, and believe they could have, succeed in school.

88% had passing grades with 62% having a ‘Cs or better’ when they dropped out
70% were confident they could have graduated
69% said they were not motivated or inspired to work hard
66% would have worked harder if expectation had been higher
47% said a major reason they dropped out was classes were not interesting
38% said they had too much freedom and not enough rules

The good news in all this is that a large part of the problem is soluble without huge new expensive programs. The report cites numerous specific solutions that can be developed at the school level, by states and the national government.

A Change for South Carolina RIGHT NOW:
Raise school leaving age from 17 years old to 18

The first, and easiest solutions cited in the study is to raise the legal age at which kids can leave school. This is one thing that could be done right now by the South Carolina legislature to cut the drop out rate.

It does not require one new regulation, or one dollar in new revenue. All that is required is to change one little number – change 17 to 18. That, and a little leadership, is all that is required.

It’s Your Turn.

I strongly urge you to read and download the brief study, read the press accounts and then email your Representatives and Senators and tell them to make the change - and do it now.


scbiomed said...

The stark reality is this study portrays an accurate account of SC education. The whole purpose of our school system has been to pass the PACT test or other standardized tests and not to educate and cultivate our youth. The state education leaders have forgotten (or decided it's to hard to do) that kids need to be challenged for them to thrive. The short term and palliative solution is to raise the drop-out age. However, if this is the route taken, the state should be prepared to dedicate some real resources to improving our eduation system or we will just end up with kids failing a grade on purpose just to make it to their 18th birthday so they can drop-out.

Steve Stevenson said...

I am involved in several K-12 and university level initiatives in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) discipllines. Gates has made his position known. There are several current articles on the net that states are forsaking everything except the No Child Left Behind numbers. NCLB is a wonderful example of the "Law of Unintended Consequences."

Our experience with incoming students is that they have virtually no problem-solving skills. In STEM disciplines, this is unacceptable. Readers of this Blog need to understand that (1) what we're doing is not working and (2) to change what we're doing must come from the community. K-12 is not serving 13-16 and therefore the feedback into K-12 is ineffective.

Mark Lester said...

Why force some to stay in a place they do not want to be? Th article clearly stated the majority of STUDENTS had good grades and thought they could have graduated - THEY weren't motivated to stick it out. THEY weren't interested in learning. Why do we have to FORCE education on students? Keeping someone in a place where learning is supposed to take place when they do not want to be there, or worse, they are FORCED to be there will not enhance the education environment - it will most certainly DETRACT from the education environment! Ultimately, forced education for all diminishes the level that can be obtained by most. We need to address the root cause of this problem - one's personal desire to learn.

dcrow@columbiasc.net said...

I agree that raising the school drop-out age is a good idea. Is truancy a contributor and are there not (already) enforcement measures in place?