Friday, December 18, 2009
Sue Scheff: Teens Dropping out of School
Source: Connect with Kids
The Cost of Drop Outs
“I fell into the wrong group of people and then my grades started to go down and I started not doing things that people should be doing.”
– Robin, 15 years old
When a child drops out of school, it's expensive for all of us. According to a new study, 600,000 kids dropped out in 2008. If they had stayed in school and graduated, they would have generated over 1 billion dollars in state and local taxes in just one year of their working lives.
Robin was in a regular high school when her focus shifted from grades to friends.
"I fell into the wrong group of people," she says, "and then my grades started to go down and I started not doing things that people should be doing."
It's a downward spiral that can lead to low self-esteem and a feeling of failure.
For some kids, the quicker they can find an alternative to conventional high school the better. But many parents don't see it that way.
"The parents are to me the last ones to want to give in to it," explains counselor Kevin Moore. "They don't see, they see themselves as a failure ... 'I mean, the neighbors! He doesn't even go to high school, he dropped out, he didn't drop out, he moved on'."
But Robin's parents helped her go to an alternative school with smaller classes and her grades have never been better. "I have like all A's and B's now and I've never had A's and B's ever," she says.
Experts say if a child's pattern of falling grades and trouble in school lasts more than 10 months, parents should start looking for options, and allow the child to be part of the decision making. Whether it's an alternative school like the one Robin's enrolled in, or schooling at home or over the internet, or private school- it's critical to break the cycle of failure quickly and replace it with a cycle of success.
"That success will remind them that they're successful at it, if you've completed a program outside, the independent, the G.E.D., home stay... whatever it is, there's success. If you can have success academically, you can move forward," says Moore.
Most parents expect that their children will succeed as students just as they expect to succeed as parents. When a child does not perform to their potential, a parent is often confused, disappointed, angry and afraid. Whether the lack of success is academic skills, social behavior or both, the recognition that a youngster is not doing well can cause pain.
The problem of underachievement can be difficult to define and often has different meanings to professionals in different occupations. This is one of the many reasons underachieving children often do not receive the help they need. Underachievement is commonly used as an umbrella term to describe anyone who is not performing in a particular activity as well as someone who knows that activity well and thinks they should. Usually the term refers to lack of academic success; however adults who choose jobs that do not reflect the degrees they hold or athletes who fail to perform to their potential could also be referred to as underachievers.
Tips for Parents
There is perhaps no situation more frustrating for parents or teachers than living or working with children who do not perform as well academically as their potential indicates they can. These children are labeled as underachievers, yet few people agree on exactly what this term means. At what point does underachievement end and achievement begin? Is a gifted student who is failing mathematics while doing superior work in reading an underachiever? Certainly, the phenomenon of underachievement is as complex and multifaceted as the children to whom this label has been applied.
Experts offer this advice for parents looking to reverse the patterns of underachieving behaviors in students.
■Supportive Strategies. Classroom techniques and designs that allow students to feel they are part of a "family" rather than a "factory." An adult should try to include methods such as holding class meetings to discuss student concerns; designing curriculum activities based on the needs and interests of the children; and allowing students to bypass assignments on subjects in which they have previously shown competency.
■Intrinsic Strategies. These strategies incorporate the idea that student's self-concepts as learners are tied closely to their desire to achieve academically. Thus, a classroom that invites positive attitudes is likely to encourage achievement. In classrooms of this type, teachers encourage attempts, not just successes; they value student input in creating classroom rules and responsibilities; and they allow students to evaluate their own work before receiving a grade from the teacher.
■Remedial Strategies. Teachers who are effective in reversing underachieving behaviors recognize that students are not perfect – that each child has specific strengths and weaknesses as well as social, emotional and intellectual needs. With remedial strategies, students are given chances to excel in their areas of strength and interest while opportunities are provided in specific areas of learning deficiencies. This remediation is done in a "safe environment in which mistakes are considered a part of learning for everyone, including the teacher."
■ERIC- Education Resources Information Center
■U.S. Department of Education