Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Positive Benefit of Dropout Accountability

I was recently talking to a group of high school educators who were bemoaning the fact that in their state they would now be accountable for reducing the dropout rate.  The crux of their complaint is that they should not be held accountable for a student/parent decision that they essentially have no control over. For those of you working in states where dropout accountability is already a reality, you are likely to be thinking, “Been there, done that.”

Many of us in education have been accountable for reducing the dropout rate for a number of years and the dropout numbers are dropping.  Which means that, "yes," we do have some control over the dropout decision.  The main way being that we tear down the hurdles and roadblocks that we have built over the years to sort the easy to teach into academic pathways and the difficult to teach out the door. 

I know that sounds harsh but it is a truism.  In my own experience the switch to dropout accountability occurred right after I became a Principal.  This forced me to re-think and re-design how my school and I intervened with difficult students. You see, even though I considered myself an enlightened educator, as an Assistant Principal I was lauded and rewarded for my ability to convince “trouble makers” to just leave. To go and “enroll” at a campus where they wouldn’t be watched and hassled for not engaging in the academic program.  Did I make the decision for the student to withdraw? No. Did those students enroll in other schools? No.  Am I responsible for those dropouts? Absolutely. 

Dropout accountability forced me to change my professional behavior many years quicker than my conscious would have.  And for that I am grateful and more importantly hundreds of students now have a better adult life due to completing their high school education.

So my advice to those educators facing this new reality. Embrace the challenge.

Think. Work. Achieve.
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