Sunday, February 25, 2007

Mulling things over...

This is my draft of a letter to the "completion counselor." On Thursday, first block was extended so that we could watch a video about the importance of earning a diploma (over the school's TV network). After watching a video, the students in each class voted on the most likely reasons for students quitting school, given a list of possible reasons.

Dear Donna,

Thanks so much for the work you do! I teach a group of freshmen during first block, and it's always good to keep them focused on graduation - Paul's repeated encouragement to the Corinthians not to lose sight of "the prize" applies to students in high school as well as to Christians in their faith walk!

For the most part, the video was well-done. The students it followed seemed to have believable attitudes about school, their place in it, and dropping out. My concern is with the situations they were placed in. The experiences for these two high-school students may have helped them personally; however, my students also voiced that they seemed unrealistic. Basketball scholarships at a major universities and careers in modeling are goals that are incredibly difficult to attain, even WITH a high school diploma.

Also, as you go through the results of the survey, take them with a grain of salt. I saw a lot of glancing-around-the-room when I asked for votes for the most common reason students dropped out! *laugh* Maybe this was because they were freshmen? I'm not sure.

My biggest concern with the survey, though, is that nothing will happen with it. I'm not sure if the students were just telling us what they wanted to hear (sometimes my journalism students complain that 'so-and-so didn't teach me ANYTHING' but in the survey it sounds like they placed blame squarely on parents for lack of support) or if they truly believed that cultural factors were the biggest problem we face. Over lunch, the teachers in the English department voiced frustrations about this. I don't think that this should translate to "it's something we can't do anything about."

If this is true - if lack of parental support and cultural disinterest in graduation contribute to the dropout rate - then we need to look at (1) what we can do to increase the graduation rate despite these factors, and (2) what we can do in our community to change them. I firmly believe that on both counts, we can make a difference.

Again, thank you for all you do to encourage us and to promote graduation. Please let me know if there's any way I can help you.


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