I am a high school dropout that went back to school and ended up as an assistant professor at local colleges.
I went back and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Educational Teaching and followed up with a Masters Degree in Elementary/Secondary Education Administration. I was an Assistant Professor at SDSU and UCSD, Extension, working with new teachers in developing curriculum to meet the needs of their individual students. I was a teacher; a Vice Principal; a Principal; A Director of Education and Vocational training as well as a Deputy Director of a Job Corps site shortly before retiring in 2004. At the time of my College/University teaching I had more people take my elective course on “How to Individualize the School Curriculum” than any other course taught at extension.
Everyone talks about the drop out problem, but no one really addresses the reasons for the problem.
Let me help you by talking about the reason that I dropped out of school the day I was 16. Plain and simple, I was bored. I was being “taught” over and over things I already knew. If you already know the principle, no one can “teach” you the same thing. You already know it.
Others in my classes were also bored, but there were those that were so frustrated because they did not understand the curriculum that they became discipline problems and spent more time in detention than they spent in the classroom.
Then there were the others that had some form of neurological/medical reason for not learning. What did the teachers do to remedy these problems? Nothing. Why? Because 1) the curriculum did not allow them to teach anything other than what was on the written page; 2) No one was ever encouraged to find out how their students learn; 3) No one ever assessed the level of the individual student to see where they were in their learning ability; 4) The Legislature, in their infinite wisdom, kept adding to the curriculum, subjects that 1/3 of the class would relish, 1/3 of the class would struggle with, and 1/3 of the class would have no interest in learning; 5) When the “new” subjects were added, there was no training for the teacher in the best methods to reach the students.
That was 50 years ago.
Has anything changed? I think not. The Legislature has passed the “Algebra in the 8th grade” ruling. Are the 8th grade teachers ready to teach this subject? Are the students being tested to see which ones are ready to learn Algebra? The answer is “no” to both questions.
So what are we doing? We are creating more high school dropouts. The students that have not even mastered their multiplication tables are going to be put in the situation of learning (?) Algebra. They are going to fail. There will not be any way to “catch up” with the rest of the class. The “D’s” and “F’s” on their report card will stop them from graduating. Why continue going to school?
Until the public realizes that not all 10 year olds, 15 year olds, 20 year olds, etc. are alike, there is going to be a continual erosion of the public school system.
Until each student is tested on an individual basis and the curriculum is adjusted for their needs, there are going to be dropouts. That means that our students must be tested BEFORE AND AFTER instruction to see what and how much has been learned.
Our children are not sheep. They are individuals with different modalities of learning; they are individuals that need to be assessed before throwing them into a class of Algebra just because they are in the 8th grade. Then, and only then, will the drop out rate be lowered.
We are promoting “teaching to the test” rather than teaching for learning sake.
And…for those of you that say “it can’t be done because there are too many students in my classroom” let me tell you something. It can be done; it has been done, and any teacher that is worthy of the name “teacher” will find some way to teach their students to his/her needs. It may be in small groups of those students having the same problem; it may be on a 1:1 basis; it may be peers working with students, etc. Not only can it be done, it should be done! Just give me a call. I’ll tell you how. And, until it is done, everyone should stop bellyaching about the status of our high school students.
The one thing teachers and administrators have difficulty with is understanding that EVERY CHILD can learn; they just don’t all learn the same way. If “Johnny does not learn it is not Johnnie’s fault.” It is the fault of the teacher, the curriculum, and the administration. And let’s not forget the people making the laws without the where-with-all to see it through to fruition.
The drop-out rate is not going to be lowered, until we, as educators, begin to meet the needs of our very precious commodity – the student. We do not have the luxury of “recalling” our product because we forgot to put in a part. We have one time to do it right – and only one time.