Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Don't Miss PBS' 'Drop Out Nation'


Watch Dropout Nation Preview on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

The number one issue related to public education?

Poverty

There are a number of people who have the attitude that children from low income neighborhoods and neighborhoods characterized by concentrated poverty are simply less affluent children who need more discipline. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Children from poor families and poor neighborhoods face challenges that many of us have never had to face as adults. Discipline is a part of the solution, money is another part. Caring adults, teachers and administrators, brave enough to emotionally invest themselves in the lives of these young people, is yet another more critical component. Without these, there is a guarantee that young people who drop out of school will face a bleak future and our society will be robbed of invaluable human capital.

PBS Frontline's 'Drop Out Nation'  (check your local station for show times) speaks to the problem and the promise associated with school dropouts and their rescue.

Houston's Sharpstown High School, is one of several schools featured in the film. Last spring, Frontline Productions spent a semester following four Sharpstown students. A five-man crew became a fixture in classrooms and halls of the school for a film that captured the unique, hands-on approach that helps students succeed and stay in school.

""Houston appealed to me because it was a place that historically had a serious dropout problem, but they were taking steps to try and rectify the problem. It was a lot more engaging than filming in a place where they were just watching kids drop off and doing nothing about it," said writer and producer Frank Koughan."

Drop out prevention is challenging to say the least. Dallas and Houston are two districts making progress, but how that progress is achieved is not always clear cut or easily replicable in other areas.

A recent article in the New York Times reports. "Dallas Independent School District, the state’s second largest, has seen its graduation rates increase 14 percentage points during that time, according to the latest numbers released by district officials."
"Policy makers and school leaders attribute the rise to a variety of programs on the state and district level aimed at keeping students in the classroom. But beyond the anecdotal, very little evidence exists as to why or if these programs are the reason for the state’s success."
"“Dropout prevention studies are hard, expensive and rare,” said Lori Taylor, an education professor at Texas A&M University. “And just because there is no proof doesn’t mean school districts are wrong in believing their intervention is working. But it also doesn’t mean that we should instantly go out and advise everyone to do what they just did.”"

That may be true, but all educators and supporters of education have to try. There's too much at stake...

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