28 January 2010

Is dropping out better for some kids?

Yes, I am a teacher, and yes, I am seriously posing that question. Only about four years ago, I would have NEVER thought that dropping out was the best for any student, but in the three and a half years that I have been in the general ed. classroom, my attitude has changed.

Before you begin to think I've gone completely out of my mind, let me stress that I DO believe that an education is vitally important to a person's success. However, I have had some students who just don't "fit" the high school setting, and then there are those who have more on their plates than a "normal" high school student should have.

Last year, I had a student I'll call Kane. Kane is an extremely bright young man. He is one of those students who really doesn't have to study and he can still pass IF he will put forth just a smidgen of effort. The problem is that Kane chooses not to follow the rules and he puts forth no effort what.so.ever. He is the kind of student who drives his teachers crazy because we can SEE the potential he has, and no matter how much we, the administrators, counselors, or his parents talk to him, he has no interest in sitting in a high school classroom 7 1/2 hours a day. So he would skip school, cop an attitude, or anything else he could to get himself suspended. The best thing for Kane would have been to drop out of high school, enroll into the adult ed program, and get his GED. He probably would have aced the GED the first time. He then could have enrolled into college where he could have taken the courses he was interested in. The last I knew of Kane, he had been sent to the Alternative School. Again. For about the third time. I'm not sure if he is still there, or if he has, in fact, dropped out.

This year, I have another student I'll call Sophia. Sophia is a beautiful, smart, sweet young lady, but I don't think she has a very good home life. I had Sophia when she was a freshman. Her attendance rate the first term of school was abominable, but as soon as she came back, she would ask for and make up her work. I talked to her, and I had the counselors talk to her. The next term, her attendance improved. It still wasn't great, but it was better. The next year, I made every effort I could to ask her how things were going anytime I saw her in the halls. Her junior year, she was in my English 11 class. Her attendance was about like it was the second term of her freshman year. She still made sure to make everything up in a timely manner. Even with all of her absences, she still had one of the highest grades in my class. When I got my rosters for this year, I was excited to see her name on my English 12 roster for this semester. We started the new semester on Jan. 11th. She wasn't there that day or the next or the next. I sent the senior counselor an email about her because I was afraid she had decided to drop out. He tried to contact her mom, but no one answered. The Tuesday of the second week, she showed up. I was so happy to see her! I told her that I had been afraid she had dropped out. She assured me that she wasn't going to drop out, but her grandmother had died. I told her I was so sorry and that I would work with her to get her caught up. She hasn't been back since. She works at one of the local fast food restaurants and has for quite some time. Like I said, I don't think her home life is all that great, and I think she is one of those young adults who have far too many responsibilities. So maybe for Sophia, dropping out and entering the adult ed program would be better. Like Kane, I think she could easily pass the GED. I know she probably doesn't want to work at a low-paying job for the rest of her life, but without a high school diploma or the equivalent, she doesn't have much hope of having anything better.

So, should ALL students stay in school to get a high school diploma? In the last few years, I've changed my mind about a small percentage of our students. Some of them just need to move on, and if they are capable, why shouldn't they? Of course, the Adequate Yearly Progress of a school is negatively affected because of the dropout rate, and if we don't meet our annual goals, we are put into "school improvement."

Education is so important, but does it HAVE to attained in a high school setting? Tell me your thoughts. I'm really interested in hearing them.

Have a GREAT day! Thank goodness tomorrow is Friday. :)


Crystal Velvet Weddings said...

I agree with your thoughts. I know that some students are actually much better off in life having not been forced into schooling or staying on. In the uk education is compulsary until 16 and then there are two additional years. Our local school is now twinned with a college and is offering a5 and 16 year old the chance to follow a non academic path and so they take basic english and maths and then get to study animal management, mechanic qualification, hairdressing and beauty or leisure.
The boost to these kids moral is fantastic and they work well to achieve their relevant qualifications. Had they been forced to follow a more academic path, they'd have felt as though they were the bottom of the pile and yet they are developing as young people who have increased self esteem!


Formal education is not for everyone I truly believe....and I believe that with the mainstreaming idea...we are ruining education for the average kids. I know how you feel about your Kane...it is hard to see someone just not care. I wish there was some kind of alternative for kids like that.

tammy said...

I agree, the formal school setting is not for everyone. I bet you see so much that just breaks your heart. I feel for Sophia and what her life must be like. I'm so glad there are teachers like you that really care and are concerned.

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