A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, October 29, 2007

The "Drop-out factory"

There's a new term on the educational horizon: "drop-out factory."

It paints quite a picture, doesn't it?

It's a nickname no principal could be proud of: "Dropout Factory," a high school where no more than 60 percent of the students who start as freshmen make it to their senior year. That description fits more than one in 10 high schools across America.

"If you're born in a neighborhood or town where the only high school is one where graduation is not the norm, how is this living in the land of equal opportunity?" asks Bob Balfanz, the Johns Hopkins researcher who coined the term "dropout factory."

There are about 1,700 regular or vocational high schools nationwide that fit that description, according to an analysis of Education Department data conducted by Johns Hopkins for The Associated Press. That's 12 percent of all such schools, about the same level as a decade ago.

Read the whole thing. It also makes some interesting claims about GEDs.

I have seen many students encouraged to go get a GED when they have said they wanted to drop out. I do not think that this is an attempt to decrease the drop-out rate that we have to report to the state. I think this is an attempt to get kids another avenue to attain some sort of credential when they have obviously evinced a lack of success in a traditional high school setting. I think this option is refusing to give up on a student.

Perhaps I am naive, but I don't think so.

We still haven't dealt with the basic problem in all of this, though: how do you "make" someone value an education when everything in society denigrates the educated?

It may be that some people just aren't ready to do the work needed to get a high school diploma. They may need to try to go out into the world and work for a while until they are ready to dedicate themselves. Because, ultimately, you can't give someone an education, all wrapped in a shiny bow-- you can offer them the opportunity for an education, and no matter what, everyone will create an education from the choices they make.

I know sometimes it is difficult. I know sometimes everything seems to be conspiring against students. I grew up in a very violent, alcoholic home. I had one of my friends live with us our senior year because her house was worse. I was the first person to go to college. My grades weren't as high as I would have liked, but I did what I had to do to graduate and get into college. I made sure I didn't do drugs, even though some of my friends did. I made sure I didn't get pregnant-- barring divine intervention, one who isn't having sex tends not to get pregnant. I wanted the options and the life an education offered me, and I did everything I could to make sure I could get it.

Education isn't a passive process.

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At 10/29/07, 8:20 PM, Blogger matineeidol said...

It seems to me that the option of a GED at least leaves an option open in the future to continue education, so I agree with you on that account. It is baffling that sometimes the encouragement of a school environment overcomes the daunting nature of a community that doesn't value education, and sometimes, the outside environment wins.
I enjoy your blogs and insight!

At 11/6/07, 3:28 PM, Blogger Mr. S said...

I really enjoyed your post and even cited it in my own blog. I wish more people in our society would not look down upon GEDs.


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