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I believe that we have an outdated system that is irrelevant to a majority of our youth in both the way we teach and what we teach.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!

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