"The Most Power Pages on The Planet"
September 8, 2008
Volume 1 - No.16
Darwin Campbell, Executive Publisher
A Bi-Weekly Publication
Back To School? For What?
Bumbling Bureaucracy, Student Neglect, Failing Grades Dog Public Education
Lone Star Power Pages
DALLAS- Almost every elementary and middle school student start school with ambitions that include high school graduation and at least some college but too often these dreams are cut short. Why?
Students come to campus for an education, but only to find deteriorating schools that are falling apart at the seams amidst turbulent school board wrangling, corrupt administrations, wasteful spending, ethics issues, poor superintendent leadership and bad teachers.
No wonder some children are voting with their feet and opting to stay at home.
Operation Comeback is part of a statewide initiative that includes mayors from six major Texas cities and officials from 17 school districts uniting to reach students who are potential dropouts.
Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said. “Our students need to be in school in order to receive the education which will help them succeed in life,” said Hinojosa. “Our priority in Dallas ISD is to educate and graduate every student ready for college and the workforce, and in order to achieve this goal, we need to make sure that all of our students are attending classes.
In Fort Worth, The City of Fort Worth, the Fort Worth ISD and the Fort Worth Chambers are encouraged the entire community to be proactive in find ways to support students to stay in school until they graduate.
Project Prevail is the umbrella under which the Fort Worth ISD sponsors a comprehensive stay-in-school initiative.
The event, Prevail to Graduation, is modeled after a similar successful project in Houston where more than 3,900 students have returned to school.
“We are literally going to knock on the doors of the kids who haven’t come back to school this year.” said Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Dr. Melody Johnson. “We’re going to bring them back.”
The Big Question
Is going door-to-door panhandling to get students to comeback the ultimate act of surrender and desperation to save face and public funding and is it a real attempt to correct education lapses in light of monumental failures at superintendent, school board and principal levels and in the classrooms.
This noble attempt by local educators and city leaders to hit the streets to win and influence students is an indication that public education has missed the mark.
Operation Comeback proves something is terribly wrong with public schools?
Complacency and Neglect: The Real Problem
According to “The Silent Epidemic, Perspectives of High School Dropouts”, a report by Civic Enterprises in association with Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, there is a high school dropout epidemic in America.
Each year, almost one third of all public high school students – and nearly one half of all blacks and Hispanics and Native Americans – fail to graduate from public high school.
Many of these students abandon school with less than two years to complete their high school education.
It is critical that schools address the circumstances that drove students away from the school in the first place- a fact in many urban areas like Dallas, Fort Worth, Waco, Austin and San Antonio who have neglected focusing on its lost students.
As the neglect continues, the consequences of not coming back to school continue to grow.
Dropouts are more likely to be unemployed, living in poverty, receiving public assistance, in prison, on death row, unhealthy, divorced and single parents with children.
Communities and the nation also suffer from the dropout epidemic due to the loss of productive workers and higher costs associated with increased incarceration, health care and social services.
According to the report, many walked away in the first place because of a lack of connection to the school environment; a perception that school is boring; feeling unmotivated; academic challenges; and the weight of real world events going on in their lives and the lives of their families.
Others gave personal reasons for leaving school including 32 percent who said they had to get a job and make money; another 26 percent said they became a parent; and 22 percent said they had to care for a family member.
Others quit because of significant academic challenges, were failing in school and not being able to keep up with daily work. Absenteeism also prevented students from catching up.
However, one of the most disturbing factors in the study found that student needs were missed at early elementary stages and that negligence and poor preparation on the part of educators contributed drop out rate in later years.
The report said dropping out is a slow process of disengagement and its symptoms can be seen early.
Solving the drop out rate and encouraging children to complete education starts at home, but the commitment to success must extend from the classroom to the front office to the school board office.
Both bear responsibility not to look the other way at youth suffering from learning challenges or issues.
According to the foundation report, schools can do a better job or retaining students and improve success rates by developing district-wide (or even state-wide) early warning systems to help them identify students who they anticipate are less likely to succeed in the school where they are.
Mechanisms must also be developed to ensure such warning systems trigger the appropriate support and provide follow through until the student is back on track.
Another step relates in making improvements is to deal with absenteeism.
Schools should have a reliable list of the students who failed to attend school and should notify parents or guardians immediately and take appropriate action to ensure students attend school and have the support they need to remain in school.
Other suggestions to prevent future comeback operations include:
Revising School Models
Look at plans to initiate different schools for different students.
Instead of the usual “one-size fits all” school, districts should develop options for students, including a curriculum that connects what they are learning in the classroom with real life experiences and with work, smaller learning communities with more individualized instruction, and alternative schools that offer specialized programs to students at-risk of dropping out.
Improve Teacher Goals
Teachers should have high expectations for their students and try different approaches to motivate students to learn.
More Parental Involvement/Communication
More parent voice, involvement and engagement strategies with individualized graduation plans for their children.
Schools and teachers should strengthen their relationships and communication with parents and work with them to ensure students to show up and complete their work and develop
The tradition of the old red schoolhouse is an American institution.
It became the darling of communities and is suppose to be responsible for nurturing and developing our future doctors, lawyers, business leaders, politicians, teachers, builders and work forces to help America compete in the future.
Its grand presence in neighborhoods gave hope that the future was always bright and that children walking through those doors would come out armed and ready with the basic skills needed to take on responsibility and walk through life successfully.
It is time that happens again Texas and in America.