Getting to Zero – Gaston County Schools, NC

Zero Dropouts would like to recognize Gaston County Schools as a Getting to Zero School District – almost half way there to reaching the goal of having zero dropouts in their school district.

Congratulations to Gaston County Schools in North Carolina for signifcantly lowering its dropouts numbers since the 07-08 school year.  That year showed 607 students dropping out of school, and the figures just released for the 11-12 school year indicate a decrease to 336 students dropping out of school.  This represents a 45% reduction in the span of 4 years, an amazing 271 students kept in school this year compared to four years ago.

School Superintendent Reeves McGlohon credits the recent year’s reduction with a greater emphasis on working with students one on one at the end of last year and the beginning of this year.  Social workers work with individuals students to find alternatives to keep them in school and the district office provides both coordination and support.

According to this year’s annual dropout report, 81 of the 115 school districts in North Carolina saw their dropout numbers decline as the state witnessed a decrease of 12.1 percent in students dropping out of school statewide.

Dropout Reduction over 5 years in Colorado

The state of Colorado has amazingly reduced its raw annual dropout numbers by 29% from 18,031 to 12,744 over the five year period from school years 2005-2006 to 2010-2011.  This is right on track with addressing previous Governor Bill Ritter’s call to action in 2005 for the state to reduce dropout numbers by 50% in a 10 year period (by the end of the 15-16 school year).

For the same 5 year period, some of the school districts we have been working with have made even greater strides in reducing their dropout numbers.

  • Aurora Public Schools – 30% reduction in the number of dropouts from 1706 to 1192
  • Denver Public Schools – 43% reduction in the number of dropouts from 4017 to 2292
  • Englewood Schools – 48% reduction in the number of dropouts from 266 to 137
  • Boulder Valley Schools – 58% reduction in the number of dropouts from 282 to 119

Here’s to the Crazy Ones

Embarking on any new journey, it is essential to find inspiration.  Steve Jobs, Apple and this Think Different commercial are some of the things that inspire me to keep going in the face of challenges and barriers.  It may have been awhile since you’ve seen this – it is worth another look.  This is a version with Steve Jobs narrating – check it out!

Start with Why

Have you ever wondered how great leaders inspire everyone to take action? Check out this video from Simon Sinek talking at a recent TED conference. Leaders who lead inspirationally, and I would argue effectively, all start with the essential why they are doing what they are doing.  Sinek introduces his concept of the golden circle, explaining that the human brain is wired to respond to non-verbal elements and stories that present our reasons behind doing how and what we do.  We here at Zero Dropouts are clear about our why- we are absolutely inspired by the remarkable potential of youth.  Join us on our Journey to Zero!

Think Outside the Box

Check out this inspiring video unveiled this week at the Colorado Legacy Foundation annual gala.  The video challenges us to think differently about education.  We definitely need to think differently about education if we are going to expect different results.  The video speaks about butts in seats, because that is the way most education is still funded in America.  States distribute education funding based on a formula based on one of three criteria- ADA (Average Daily Attendance), ADM (Average Daily Membership) or a One Time Count.  Colorado uses the one time count method, commonly referred to as October Count.  Whoever shows up to school during a short window of time around October 1st gets counted in the funding formula, and the school district gets funding to serve that student.  If the student shows up after that window, then the serving district gets no funding to serve that student.  This funding formula is one of the things that we in Colorado need to think differently about like this video inspires us to do.

Calling all Co-Conspirators

Calling all co-conspirators – all true believers in the remarkable potential of youth. Those that believe that the dropout problem is not caused by a deficiency in our youth, but instead an inadequacy within our systems of education. We still have an educational system designed for the industrial age, attempting to prepare youth for a factory-model economy.

Times have changed. We need a system designed not only for the new fast- paced economy, but also designed for who we are as people in the 21st century. We customize everything else in our world, why not an educational approach tailored to bring out the best in every one of us, diverse and talented as we are. Our young people will take full advantage of such an educational system if we adults create it for them. Join us. Join the cause. Commit to Zero! Calling all co-conspirators who believe in the remarkable potential of youth. Conspire to Zero!

Framing the Dropout Issue

Most of the work in dropout prevention over the last several decades has been predicated on the belief in the personal deficiency of our young people. In other words, it is built on the belief that we have a dropout problem, because we have bad kids who don’t value education.

But is it really? Personally, in my 30 years working with youth, I’ve found that 95% of students who get to the point of dropping out of school actually want to return to get their high school diploma, but don’t know how to or where to come back to finish. Our society does an amazing job of inculcating into all our citizens, young and old, the value of an education. So if it is not bad kids that are causing our dropout problem, what is?

I believe that we have an outdated system that is irrelevant to a majority of our youth in both the way we teach and what we teach. The ones that drop out are actually the canaries in the coal mine that give us an early warning signal that there is a dire problem with our educational system in its current form.

Dropping out is a rational decision for those whom our system does not serve well – albeit in a large part an ultimately self- defeating proposition, because it is difficult to move forward in this society without the basics of a high school education. We’ve got to create educational systems and approaches and schools that allow these rationale defectors a different way to reach their educational goals. Let’s create a better system more worthy of the amazing kids we have in this country!