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Nationwide statistics about rising high school dropout rates are astounding: student dropouts are the leading cause of poverty, unemployment, and crime in the United States. According to a CNN online News report, "Nearly 6.2 million students in the United States between the ages of 16 and 24 in 2007 dropped out of high school, fueling what a report released Tuesday called a persistent high school dropout crisis (CNN)." Though high school dropouts account for only 2% of the total population, they are involved in more than 15% of all crimes. For every teen dropout arrested at least 10 others were engaged in crimes that were not reported to law enforcement (Rodriguez). High school dropout rates are rising significantly and have devastating consequences to students, our society, our economy, and civic life. A concerned public has demanded that something be done to curb the danger of high school students dropping out.
The problem is not one of improving teaching and curricula that resembles work, and improving of access of support so much as it is requiring more responsibility from educators and school, and support for reform. According to a survey by Civic Enterprises exemplifies how irresponsible educators are, nearly 75% of teachers and 66% of principals did not believe students at risk of dropping out would work harder if higher academic standards, more studying, and homework were demanded to earn a diploma. Up to 73% of newer teachers and 77% of experienced teachers shared these views. These perspectives are in stark contrast to research showing that 66 % of dropouts said they would have worked harder if more had been demanded of them in the classroom (Bridgeland). Educators and schools need to take more responsibility for students dropping out. Educators cannot place responsibility on the school system, and elected officials for students leaving school. Educators cannot play the blame game and do nothing about the problem of students dropping out, there has to be nationwide reform of the entire school system.
There seems to be a catch. Educators need to take additional responsibility, expecting all students to meet high academic standards, graduate with the skills to do college-level work, and set goals for struggling students to help them meet those new standards. Problem is if educators take on too much responsibility students may feel excessively restricted, lose interest, lose curiosity, lose focus and would revolt by simply dropping out. How can we place more responsibility upon educators while ensuring that students receive the positive atmosphere they need to stay in school?
Lately there has been a heated discussion about a revolutionary proposal. This proposal would reform the entire school system raising academic expectations and standards exponentially for all schools universally. This proposal includes multiple parts the first part includes states obtaining accurate graduation data and college readiness accountability. All states need to follow a common calculation of graduation rates, as put forth by the National Governor's Association and adopted by the U.S. Department of Education. States also need to establish ambitious graduation rate goals and make districts and schools accountable for making substantial progress toward these goals. Finally, teachers and administrators need to be brought into the mission to graduate all students prepared for post-secondary education.
The second part of the proposal includes enacting standards based rigorous curriculum and high expectations for every student. Schools should have fewer, clearer and higher standards aligned with college requirements so that every student has the opportunity to graduate ready for post-secondary education. Principals and teachers should have high expectations for every student, and be brought into the mission of ensuring every student has the chance to go to college. Research has shown the clear link between teacher expectations, rigor in student coursework and student academic performance, across all student backgrounds and income levels.
The third part of the proposal involves improving communication, understanding and collaboration among teachers, parents, and students. Schools and communities should engage teachers, parents and students in a dialogue about the different perspectives these groups have on the high school dropout challenge to foster better understanding among these three vital partners on paths forward. Teachers and parents need to work together to provide struggling students with the necessary supports to stay on track to graduate. Students, in turn, need to become better self advocates and seek help from their teachers and parents before it is too late. Schools need to create parent engagement strategies that focus on teacher feedback on a student's academic progress and provide parents better information and tools, such as information on graduation and college admission requirements and homework hotlines.
This ground-breaking proposal help insure that educators are held more accountable. Such a program would ensure that high school students would stay in school, maintain a level of interest, creativity, focus and would possess sufficient skills upon graduation. Setting high academic expectations and standards also benefit the school significantly. According to a study done by Civic Enterprises students will show up to class more often, be more punctual, pay more attention, score higher academically, complete more courses and have less behavioral problems (Bridgeland).
Some extremists argue that high schools should improve teaching and curricula to enhance the connection between school and work, pointing to surveys that show 81% of dropouts wanted more opportunities for "real-world" learning so that students can see the connection between school and getting a job (Bridgeland). But improving teaching and curricula for high schools nationwide to provide "real-world" learning would cost millions more every year in an already ongoing budget deficit. The "real-world" is extremely diverse and changes too often for schools to actually teach anything of significance. Students would also face larger classes, smaller class selection, and cuts on artistic programs such as marching band, production choir, drama, and dance (LEWIN). Clearly improving teaching and curricula in high schools is the wrong solution.
Others suggest that the problem could be solved simply by improving access to support for struggling students. By providing students with smaller classes, more tutoring, summer school, and office hours with teachers would improve their chances of graduating (Bridgeland). However a U.S. Department of Education study has shown that 85% of students do not require any improvements in access to support, and would still graduate (Education). Schools are designed to serve a majority of student since a majority is the ones who graduate and need it the most. Schools barely have enough funds to support a majority of students who want to learn and grow academically and intellectually let alone a minority of students who did not want to be in school in the first place.
Private schools that have instituted high academic expectations and standards have had great success. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, private high schools have a stunningly low dropout rate of only 2% than compared to public high schools which is a staggering 16% (Center). An astounding 14% difference is significant and shows the effectiveness of high academic expectations and standards. Also students report how these high academic expectations and standards create an environment where they perform at their best academically and intellectually. By giving students high academic expectations students themselves aim higher, and realize their full potential.
I surveyed countless high school students asking them whether they would prefer high academic expectations and standards compared to low academic expectations and standards. Many students complained loudly preferring low expectations so that they could just breeze through high school without really learning and working hard. But as loud as their cries are, they are quite quiet compared to the statistics. Higher academic expectations and standards reduce the dropout rate significantly from 16% to 2% resulting in considerably less students dropping out meaning that there are considerably less crimes, poverty, and unemployment for society as a whole. There are also substantial improvements for the school system as well, with increased attendance rates, enhanced student engagements, higher academic achievements, additional courses completed and less behavioral problems. We must reform the entire school system raising academic expectations and standards universally. Raising the bar for students causes students to raise their own bar, helping them aim higher and further so that they can compete with the rest of the highly completive world. Students are the future of America and need to be ready for the future. If you believe in a brighter, and better tomorrow sign my petition immediately.