Fixing the Dropout Crisis, Part I
Last night I attended a Teacher Town Hall on the dropout crisis in Washington, DC. It was hosted by Howard University Television (WHUT) and WAMU, our local public radio station.
All in all, it was a little underwhelming. In addition, my quest for international superstardom was again thwarted. I had signed up to attend and indicated that I was not currently a classroom teacher when I did so. When I got there I was not admitted because I was not currently a teacher. Because they didn’t fill up all the seats some of us were told we could sit in the studio so long as we did not speak. I declined and stayed in the overflow room to watch.
Much of what the teachers shared were anecdotal stories of how they had helped some student. One teacher shared her point system, another her positive affirmations; things like that. There was little by way of systemic ideas and a lot of descriptions of extra-school issues that contribute to under-achievement.
Two of the best comments were from friends and former colleagues Cosby Hunt and Sharifa Edwards. Cosby noted the importance of retaining teachers; meaning giving them the support and respect they need to want to stay. This is clearly an afterthought for DCPS. Sharifa talked about the students she neglects because she has to spend all of her time working with those at the bottom.
I’ll have more to say about this later, after I watch the whole thing again. But one generalization I can make is that the teachers understand the power of relationships and how they treat students. Finding a teacher you like who you know cares about you could keep you in school.
These relationships are powerful and rewarding and I believe the reason most of us started teaching. But that is not a systemic solution. At any given time, you might have a handful of these relationships and your colleagues might have similar relationships with other kids. But that still doesn’t cover very many students.
The teachers explicitly did not say things like “If my objective was written more clearly then fewer students would drop out” or “If I could just enter a little more data into my spreadsheet…”.
What the teachers know works is exactly what is being crowded out of our professional lives because of the BS you are all familiar with.
So, there you go.
This event was the culmination of a nine-part series on high school dropouts put together by WAMU. The series itself is very good and you should listen to it. It was done by Kavitha Cardoza, whose voice always makes me believe everything will be OK. I think she might be an angel.
Like I said, I will say more about all this later. Meanwhile, what do you think would help in reducing dropout rates (aside from juking the stats)? Please share thoughts and ideas even if you do not have a complete solution that can be implemented immediately.
In other news:
1) I got a new bike today!
2) DC City Council Chair Kwame Brown is about to plead guilty to bank fraud and
resign has just resigned. It was just a month ago that my city council member from Ward 5, Harry Thomas, was convicted of stealing more than $350,000 from youth sports programs.
It looks like Marion “bitch set me up” Barry can be proud of his town again. (Marion Barry is the international embarrassment and former long-time mayor of DC who went to jail after an FBI sting caught him buying and smoking crack. After getting out of jail, he was elected mayor again…Yeah, I know. What’s more, the geniuses in the poorest part of the city, Ward 8, continue to elect him to be their city council member. Whatever…Come to think of it, that’s where a lot of the dropouts are.)