Monday, June 21, 2010

New Approaches to Averting the Drop Out Crisis

Drop out factoriesThe high rate of drop outs from inner city schools is periodically focused on every few years or so when a new report comes out and suggests that fewer students are graduating from such urban schools than previously thought. The most recent report of this kind was Balfanz and Letgers study of 2004 has been the boldest of recent years describing many inner city schools as no less than "drop out factories" --and found that "there are between 900 and 1,000 high schools in the country in which graduating is at best a 50/50 proposition. "

Now there are moves afoot to begin on a larger scale to address the issue. Some of these efforts are documented in a report sponsored by the Annie E Casey Foundation, Multiple Pathways To Graduation: New Routes to High School Completion, written by Shannon Marsh and Paul Hill that was published in May of this year. One of the approaches the report highlight involves high schools in the district working together identify those students at greatest risk of dropping out. Districts then develop new schools or place a variety of special instructional programs within existing schools. Districts continuously assess these schools and programs for their match to current students’ needs and their effectiveness in helping students."

Cincinatti Public Schools is one of the innovative school districts that is seriously looking at reports like the Multiple Pathways to Graduation as they consider options broadly termed a " portfolio strategy," whereby a school district "opens itself up to an assortment, or portfolio, of non-traditional schools - such as the boarding school or the holistic school - to provide more options to students."

We seem to be acknowledging for the first time in public education that one size does not fit all and that we need to make alternatives available for those the system has had the most difficult time serving. The question is how? How might we use new technologies that allow students to converse with mentors, teachers and form learning communities? How might we use new assessment techniques that would provide real time feedback for students so they can monitor their own learning? How can we ensure that student motivation and interest connects with rigorous and changelleng assignments? These are large and complex questions but it is important that they are being asked now at a time when we need answers more than ever to the question of how we are going to educate our young people to much higher skill levels in an economy that is tolerating in some areas --10 to 20 percent unemployment?


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