New Journalism

Feb 14 2012

Students and teachers talk about problems with engagement and dropping out in high school on Teachers Teaching Teachers - Wednesday 2.15.12 - 9:00 PM Eastern / 6:00 PM Pacific

Why do high school students drop out? This is the question that +Paul Allison+monika hardy, and +Chris Sloan will be hosting on +Teachers Teaching Teachers this Wednesday, 2.15.12 at 9:00 PM Eastern / 6:00 PM Pacific / World Times: Please plan to join us at along with some pretty amazing colleagues and students: +Mary Ann Reilly will be joining us. She was one of the catalysts of this episode of Teachers Teaching Teachers. Recently she shared this video with +Troy Hicks+Teresa Bunner, and+Buffy Hamilton (+Mark Gutowski is in the video) “in response to the question about how we empower/engage high school students. The video chronicles work that educators at Morristown High School did in developing a classics academy. The film was made by Ben Donnellon.” 

We’ll use this video to frame our conversation on Wednesday evening. In addition we’ve been taking another look at “A 2006 survey, The Silent Epidemic, [which] put these questions [about engagement or the lack thereof in high school] to a group that isn’t usually asked for opinions on American education—high school dropouts. The study found that while some students drop out because of significant academic challenges, most dropouts are students who could have, and believe they could have, succeeded in school.” Troy Hicks wonders: “Where we are at ten years into ’21st century learning’ and NCLB. Are the problems with engagement really still just the same? Who are the students that are dropping out and why? Who is actually sticking around and not feeling engaged? Why?”

We hope that +Nick Perez will also be able to join this Wednesday on this episode of Teachers Teaching Teachers. Nick found our conversation and had this poignant, detailed response, which I can’t figure out how to excerpt, so here it is in full. Nick wrote to us: Interesting stuff, thanks for the link [to the study listed above]. I don’t think high-school is for everyone - just like college isn’t for everyone. This might not be a popular opinion, but I’d love to see more of a focus on alternative forms of education for dropouts, and less of a focus on forcing them to stay in schools where they don’t feel productive. A little background on how I formed that opinion:

I’m a high-school dropout. I wrote my first program when I was ~10 years old, and spent my time coding instead of doing schoolwork. Everyone knew that I was educating myself, but I was still treated like a troublemaker because of my grades. After being placed in a horrible, kind of humiliating special-ed program in middle school (I had someone following me around all day, making sure I was paying attention), I started skipping school because I felt alienated. I’ve never been allowed in a regular high-school classroom (I was in a small program for troubled kids, where it wasn’t unusual for a student to be out for weeks/months due to jail-time), which made me feel further alienated, and motivated me to skip class more often.  So eventually I left. I think there should be more of a focus on our unique needs, and more of an understanding of the fact that “unique needs” doesn’t necessarily equate to learning disabilities or behavioral problems - some of us prefer to work without a standardized curriculum, some of us prefer to work alone, some prefer to work in groups, some want complete guidance, and some just want independent study with extra help on-call.. and yeah, some are stubborn enough to reject any form of education that doesn’t meet their needs/desires/expectations, like myself. 

I don’t regret a thing. I love self-educating, because I love freedom and self-accountability. If I fail to learn the things I need to learn, it’s an issue that I deal with on my own, instead of facing disciplinary action, or getting an “F”, or being placed in a box of “bad kids”. I have a job. I pay taxes. I’ve never had issues paying my rent. I’m still self-educating at every opportunity and always will be. Life goes on. I’d love to help other dropouts feel like they haven’t missed their chance. We will also be welcoming a couple of students from Bronx Academy Senior High the school where Paul Allison teaches. We suspect that they have stories similar to Nick’s.

We’ll LiveCast our conversation at at 9:00 PM Eastern / 6:00 PM Pacific / World Times: We invite you to listen in and join the live chat!

Paul Allison, Monika Hardy, and Chris Sloan

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