The Dropout Crisis: Solutions from Castlemont High

I spent this morning listening to a great segment on our local NPR affiliate KQED’s Forum with Michael Krasny.  The segment, entitled “The Dropout Crisis: Solutions” was broadcast from the auditorium of Oakland’s Castlemont High School and featured guests Fania Davis, executive director of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth; Michael Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education and professor emeritus of education at Stanford University; Russell Rumberger, vice provost for education partnerships at the UC Office of the President, director of the California Dropout Research Project and author of the book “Dropping Out”; and Tony Smith, superintendent of the Oakland Joint Unified School District.

Audio hasn’t been uploaded yet but you’ll be able to find it here:

SchoolI was impressed with Russell Rumberger’s assertion that we need to broaden our notions of student success to embody more social and emotional components, as well as vocational and technical foci.  Excerpts from his book Dropping Out: Why Students Drop Out of School and What Can Be Done About It are on his webpage but I particularly liked Chapter 9, What Should be Done to Solve the Dropout Crisis:

Moving Beyond Current Efforts

1. Redefining High School Success

So, instead of defining success solely in terms of mastering a college preparatory curriculum, we should develop a broader measure of high school success, one that includes vocational and technical education as well as the arts and humanities (p. 271).

 Supporting material:

Working and Learning in the Collaborative Age,
Randy Nelson, former Dean of Pixar University

Bring on the Learning Revolution
Sir Ken Robinson (Video, TED, May 24, 2010)

2. Changing Accountability Systems to Provide Incentives to Educate All Students

Because schools are accountable for improving the achievement of its current students, this provision provides incentives for schools to encourage transfers of the most challenging students to alternative schools or other comprehensive high schools.

Instead, schools should be provided incentives to successfully educate all the students who enter as ninth graders. One way to do this is include all students who spend at least one semester of their ninth grade in that schools’ ninth grade cohort when calculating their graduation rate, regardless of whether the student remains in the school. That way, schools will have a greater incentive to insure that if students do transfer, they transfer to another school that is likely to improve their chances of graduating (pp. 272-273)

3. Building Capacity of the Educational System

Evaluations of past reform efforts by the federal government, states governments, and private organizations have consistently concluded that these reform efforts have largely failed because educational institutions lacked sufficient capacity to implement and sustain school reform…Reform efforts have largely utilized mandates and resources to force schools and staffs to change their practices over the short term rather than building their capacity to improve over the long run.

Unfortunately, current reform efforts largely follow the same formula: increasing standards, mandating reform strategies, and providing more funding to states and schools that adopt these measures. But without a clear and focused effort to improve the capacity at all levels of the educational system—the federal level, the state level, the local district and school level—these efforts will likely fail (p. 273)

4. Desegregating Schools

Schools in the U.S. are highly segregated by race and poverty because communities are segregated and most students still attend neighborhood schools. As a result, Black and Hispanic students are much more likely than White and Asian students to attend schools where the majority of other students are minority and poor. Both the racial and socioeconomic composition of schools affect achievement.

Yet the U.S. has largely retreated from active pursuit of policies to desegregate its public schools, resulting in a deepening segregation of black and Latino students by race and poverty. While some of the inequalities associated with segregated schools, such as teacher quality and fiscal resources, can be addressed without desegregating schools, segregated schools would still remain “inherently unequal” as the Supreme Court found in the Brown decision of 1954 (p. 274)

5. Strengthening Families and Communities

School-based approaches alone, even with the addition of targeted dropout interventions, are also unlikely to solve the dropout crisis without providing adequate support to families and communities. In particular, even widespread school reform that raised the persistently lowest-achieving schools to even average achievement levels will unlikely raise the graduation rate sufficiently and at best eliminate about one-third of the achievement gap differences between racial and socioeconomic groups. Therefore, to improve graduation rates and to close gaps in graduation will require interventions in two other arenas: families and communities (p. 274).

About nationalequityproject

At the National Equity Project, we believe every child has a right to a quality education. We support people to become the powerful leaders who make good on that promise.
This entry was posted in Changing the Discourse, Current Events, Effective Teaching, Relationships, school improvement, student engagement and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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