Thursday, March 02, 2006

High School Dropouts Say The Darndest Things!

Large numbers of high school dropouts say that they quit school because it wasn't challenging enough:
A survey of high school dropouts offers a surprising view of why they don't finish school. It finds that more than six in 10 were earning C's or above when they dropped out, and nearly two-thirds say they would have worked harder if expectations had been higher.

The survey, commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is being released today by Civic Enterprises, a Washington-based research firm headed by two former Bush administration officials from his first term, John Bridgeland and John DiIulio. DiIulio served briefly as the first head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

The survey, by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, polled 467 geographically, racially and economically diverse people ages 16 to 24 last summer and fall, using focus groups and face-to-face interviews.

In many ways, the findings aren't unexpected. For example, about three-fourths say they would have stayed in school if they had to do it over again. But in other ways, the survey offers small, surprising glimpses into students' worlds:

• 38% say they had "too much freedom" and not enough rules in school, which made it easy to skip class.

• 68% say their parents became more involved in their education only when they were on the verge of dropping out.

• 70% are confident they could have graduated if they had tried.

• 81% now believe that graduating from high school is important to succeed.

"It does give us a perspective that we didn't have, which is the perspective of the student who drops out," says education researcher Jay Greene, who chairs the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas.

But Greene, whose research has included studies on dropout rates, cautions that students' points of view represent only "a partial and possibly distorted picture."

For instance, 69% of dropouts say they weren't motivated, and another 47% say classes weren't interesting. That is simply another way for students to say that their basic skills weren't up to the task of high school-level work, Greene says. "Being in school seems like a big waste of your time because you don't understand what's going on. You can't understand the material that's being assigned to you."

The study suggests communities support "different schools for different students," a nod to efforts already begun by the Gates Foundation, which has poured more than $1 billion into school reform, primarily through financing the breakup of large high schools and the creation of smaller "learning communities."

The study says states should consider "early-warning systems" to identify kids at risk of dropping out and to look into raising the age at which students can legally leave school to 17 or 18 from 16 in most states.

Schools also "need to do more to invite parents in," the researchers say, such as getting parents involved earlier when students miss school.

"When kids start getting truant, we know that they're in the process of dropping out," Greene says.
Heh. I'm not surprised that the dropouts are blaming the schools for their regretable lack of academic success. It seems as though everyone from Margaret Spellings to the Parents on the Street and the Dropout Flipping Burgers continue to repeat the mantra that it's wholly the schools' fault when students don't learn, try to learn, or even bother to attend school regularly.
See this week's Carnival Of Education right here and our latest education-related posts over there.