Monday, October 29, 2012

Preventing Middle School Dropouts?

What makes a kid want to come to school every day?

This is a question I'm going to ask a group of people in a couple of weeks, as the school system I work in begins to look at the role midde schools play in preventing kids from dropping out. If you Google this subject, there isn't a whole lot out there. However, there ae a few very interesting thoughts on the subject. There is a great article in Social Science Research that discusses the concept of 9th Grade Shock, which is used to describe how a student's GPA tends to drop when transitioning from 8th grade to 9th grade. I have to wonder why this drop is taking place? Here are a couple of questions I've come up with to ponder this:
  • Are we adequately preparing students to be successful in 9th grade?
  • Is there that much of a discrepancy in our expectations?
I remember a conversation I had this summer with a colleague regarding whether or not we are adequately preparing our high school students for college. It is one thing to prepare a student academically, but there are other factors to consider as well:
  • Are students socially prepared for college?
  • Are they always grown-up enough to handle college?
  • Are students aware of the other financial responsibilities that go along with college?
  • How much of this should we really be responsible for?
There are smilar factors we need to consider for our students leaving middle school:
  • Does the middle school curriculum progressively increase in rigor so that students are well-prepared for high school?
  • Are middle schools and high schools working together to make the transition smooth?
  • Do students have a strong understanding of how high school credits work? 
I work in a middle school. I know these factors are easy to forget about. I also know that we experience similar frustrations with our incoming 6th graders. Issues that at one point were traditionally K-5, 6-8, 9-12, or even higher-ed are now becoming issues for everyone. We say it all the time: "It takes a village to raise a child." I think its time that village has earned a township; complete with an elementary, middle, and high school...with a good college down the road!

Nikolas Pharris-Ciurej, Charles Hirschman, Joseph Willhoft, The 9th grade shock and the high school dropout crisis, Social Science Research, Volume 41, Issue 3, May 2012, Pages 709-730, ISSN 0049-089X, 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2011.11.014.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Everything Comes Full Circle

I've had a lot on my plate lately...I has everyone else.

While reflecting on everything there is to accomplish, I attempt to pull out any common threads to help streamline these tasks. I'm currently serving three different roles outside my building, preparing to speak at a conference, and have just been asked to write a chapter for a journal. The following common themes continue to rise to the top as I do my research:
  • Student Engagement and Time on Task
  • Rigor and Relevance
  • Positive Student/Teacher Relationships
  • 21st Century Skills/Techniques
What's really interesting is that the topics that I'm researching: bullying, dropout prevention, and the benefits of obtaining an EdD, may not immediately appear to have a whole lot in common. However, when you actually drill down, the above themes are critical in supporting all of these topics.

Think about it:
  • Students who are engaged throughout the day in relevant and meaningful tasks facilitated by adults who model positive behavior are less likely to be a behavior issue, and are more likely to come to school every day. 
  • Educators who obtain an EdD (or any higher-ed degree for that matter) from an institution that utilizes a project-based curriculum are performing tasks in their coursework they are able to transfer to their teaching and their leadership. In addition, adults also learn more effectively in an environment that is similar to the one I described for the kids.
I've said this before in earlier posts. I truly believe there is a link to everything we do as educators, though we are not always quick to realize this.

So the next time you find your plate to be overflowing, take a moment to find some commonalities. You may be surprised to find just how many there are, and how much more manageable your tasks have become!