The AT&T Foundation’s new report, “On the Front Lines of Schools,” sheds light on what educators, students, and parents believe has the greatest impact on high school dropout. The report shows a lot of finger pointing—and only one group actually accepting responsibility for the crisis.
When asked about reasons why students are disengaged in school and drop out, district-level personnel point out the failures of principals, principals cite the failures of teachers, and teachers rattle off a laundry list of what parents do wrong.
When questioned about the reasons why students chose to discontinue their educations before receiving a diploma, it is rare that the teacher responds “my lessons were boring and disengaging.” Instead, teachers are much more likely to blame parents and the home environment. Specifically, the report mentions that 74 percent of teachers and 69 percent of principals felt parents bore all or most of the responsibility for their children dropping out.
Raise your hand if you’ve heard an assistant principal, head principal, dean, or headmaster say “students at my school dropped out because I was not involved in monitoring my staff as it implemented the curriculum.” Frequently, our school-level leaders point their fingers toward low teacher efficacy and poor classroom management.
Show me the parent who states that his daughter did not receive her diploma because “I did not create space, time, and the expectation she complete her homework.” All too often, parents claim that they did not even know that their children were not on track to graduate.
And please, show me the superintendent or district-level leader who cites her failure to adequately coach, monitor, and evaluate principals as the reason why students do not graduate from high school. I recently heard district level personnel list 10 things principals don’t do often enough as the reasons why students do not graduate ready for work and college.
Here’s what’s interesting, though—according to the “Silent Epidemic” report, most students (70%) do actually blame themselves, saying they could graduate if they had tried harder. Further, the report informs us that “while most dropouts blame themselves for failing to graduate, there are things they say schools can do to help them finish.”
Thus, it appears that everyone else seems to be blaming someone else, except the kids who drop out. What should that tell us?
Our dropout crisis will persist until each of us takes a look at those fingers pointing back at us, and identify our own culpability in our nation’s dropout crisis.
Change will require us to be introspective and acknowledge our own shortcomings. Once we do that, then we might be able to collaborate to present viable solutions to address high school dropout.