I asked for my district's disciplinary data. What I learned shocked me.

A month ago, as the cable network FXX began a 24-7 marathon of The Simpsons, I noted that much of the mischief young Bart atones for in the show’s title sequence would result in suspensions or expulsions for students in the real world — and especially for students of color.

Research shows minority students face more harsh discipline than their white counterparts — even for non-violent infractions of school rules. And Attorney General Eric Holder has called for school districts to examine this issue and address it.

Many haven’t, though.  

“Is this happening in your school district?” I asked in my Aug. 21 post. “There is an easy way to find out — and to do something about it. Simply ask your school board to ask for a review of suspension and expulsions, inclusive of any data the district maintains on race, gender and economic status, and then ask the board for a thoughtful consideration of what can be done to ensure equity for all students.”

Then I took my own advice. In an email to my local school board member, I asked if the board had reviewed the district’s suspension and expulsion data relative to the race, ethnicity, gender and socio-economic statuses of its students.

Read More »

Two things you can do — today — to help teen mothers graduate high school

Just 40 percent of teenage mothers finish high school and only 2 percent of young women who had a child before age 18 earn a college degree by age 30.

It doesn’t have to be this way. With the right combination of flexibility and support, young mothers can survive and thrive in high school and beyond.

On Monday, Oct. 27 at 12 p.m. Pacific/3 p.m. Eastern, Graduation Alliance will host a webinar with Juliann Galmarini Mangino, PhD, the author of Voices of Teen Mothers: Their Challenges, Support Systems, and Successes, and Graduation Alliance program principal Deborah O’Brien. They’ll discuss what can be done to help ensure teen moms in your district have every opportunity possible to earn a diploma and move onward to college and career training.

Read More »

No room for debate: Fight to get more students to graduation is still a crisis

Returning to a subject he first addressed in The Huffington Post  back in April, Virginia Union University’s Matthew Lynch asked once again on EdWeek, this week, whether the nation’s dropout rate is “really a crisis.”

If you’re familiar with Dr. Lynch’s work — he’s a passionate advocate for equity in education — you know the question is largely rhetorical. There’s no question whatsoever that the ever-rising number of Americans without a high school diploma amounts to a crisis.

In fact, there’s really no question that it’s more than a crisis.

If hundreds of thousands of young men and women were stricken each year with a disease that had the same impact on their life outcomes as leaving school before earning a diploma (reduced earnings potential, increased incarceration rates, increased crime victimhood and decreased life expectancy, among other symptoms) we wouldn’t just call it a crisis — we’d call it an epidemic and stop at nothing to end it.

Read More »

Why we can't measure dropout recovery students the same way as we measure others

Two credits.

That’s just a third of what students in most traditional high schools need to earn each year to stay on track for graduation — and it’s what participants in most of the dropout recovery programs in Duval County, Florida, earned over the past year.

In a Duval County School Board meeting on Tuesday, board chair Becki Couch said the district “should be appalled by these numbers," according to a report from WJCT

That’s a reaction that reflects a common misunderstanding of what dropout recovery is and what it can achieve.

Among the incredibly diverse population of young men and women who have left school without a diploma there are certainly some — though likely a very small number — who can recovery credits just as quickly as students who have never left school and always stayed on track for graduation. There are others, though, for whom even earning two credits per year would be a significant accomplishment.

Here’s why:

Read More »

In fans' reaction to a player's downfall, a lesson in compassion for us all

The laughter came first.

In Utah the intercollegiate rivalry known as “The Holy War” is as bitterly cold as a February morning on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. So when Brigham Young University’s former star quarterback — who once infamously ranted that he “hates” everything about “classless” University of Utah fans — recently found himself arrested for drugs and petty theft, opposing fans reveled in the comeuppance.

Then, almost as fast in response, came the effusive compassion.

Max Hall was sick, BYU fans said. He was troubled. He was battling demons. Perhaps he was wrestling with the depression that sometimes comes to athletes when sports dreams don’t come true. Maybe he was self-medicating, as so many athletes do, for chronic pain. Some BYU fans even suggested taking up a collection to help defray the former NFL quarterback’s legal bills.

These diametric reactions spoke volumes about a society that rarely passes up the opportunity to kick folks when they’re down, but one that can also be abundant in its sympathy — for the right kind of victim.

Read More »

Want to help a student in your community? Here are five ways to start.

Go find your Nico.

That was the challenge issued by America's Promise Alliance founder Gen. Colin Powell, America's Promise board chair Alma Powell, and Target community relations director Laysha Ward in an op-ed in The Washington Post this week.

Through the story of a formerly homeless teen named Nico Rodriguez — who graduated high school thanks to the support of a mentor from a teen center in Lowell, Massachusetts — the writers called on everyone in the country to take an at-risk student under their wing.

They noted that the billions of dollars invested in dropout prevention efforts over the past decade have helped reduce the number of students leaving school without a diploma — but that hasn't ended the nation's dropout epidemic. To do that, they argued, we must stop looking to policies and programs and start looking at people.

One by one. One on one. We can make a difference.

Read More »

Later school start times are important — but we cannot make students chose between education and work

Photo by Melvin Green More schools are considering later start times — a long-debated but little-settled policy change that advocates say can improve health, decrease vehicle accidents and increase student academic performance.

Indeed, those were the findings of researchers led by Kyla Wahlstrom of the University of Minnesota. In February, Wahlstrom and her team released a report showing staggering improvements in these areas for students at schools with start times of 8:35 a.m. or later. (Editor's note: We'd very much like to see more research reflecting how later start times impact students at schools with high dropout rates — all of the schools reviewed in this report had graduation rates in line or far above the national average.)

Read More »

There should be no complacency for middle school dropout epidemic

Photo by Bina Sveda"Schools don't have the resources to go out and find those no-shows."

That's how one teacher described the situation in California, where more than 6,400 children leave school each year before even entering high school, according to an article by The Hechinger Report, a non-profit news organization focused on in-depth coverage of education issues.  

Her words are a sad reflection of the complacency with which our society faces this issue. Even though California has a law mandating school attendance through the age of 18, schools all too often treat the students who leave in junior high — before most dropout prevention programs even get started — as lost causes, doomed to their fate for lack of any viable way to help them.

Except, of course, that there are viable ways. There are many viable ways. And if we can't all agree that these are the students for whom we should be pulling out all the stops, then we should have our collective heads examined. 

Read More »

How should we respond to the surge of unaccompanied immigrant students?

David's 3,100-mile journey took him from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, to the U.S. border with Mexico by foot, bus and car.

And, finally, in an old tire — which he used to float across the Rio Grande.

The 12-year-old boy, who recently was reunited with his parents in Washington, D.C., is one of 55,000 unaccompanied immigrant children who have arrived in the United States from Central America since last fall. His story was detailed in an Education Week article today.

The article is more than a riveting human story. It is a call for everyone in education to determine what, in the short term, must be done to support these boys and girls as they enter into the U.S. school system and what, in the long term, can be done to ensure that they reach graduation.

Read More »

Raising awareness is a key goal of making dropout recovery efforts public

About 350 volunteers went door to door in Des Moines this weekend to encourage students who have left school before graduation to return to their studies.

"Dropout recovery walks," such as the one held annually in Des Moines, don't usually result in large numbers of graduates. A similar effort in Las Vegas, a few years ago, targeted 289 at-risk teens who had dropped out of school — only 17 of whom returned to school and remained there six months later.

But that's not the point of these sorts of events – or, at least, it shouldn't be.

Read More »