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.

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